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Be Your Own Board

Matt Harvey, Stanford University March 28, 2011

You’re the CEO/Founder of an early-stage startup and it’s your favorite time of the month. Are you ready for the board meeting?

How much time (or days) have you spent preparing for it? Do you look forward to sitting down with your board or do feel like you’re headed for another round at the Inquisition? These get-togethers should be useful and productive for CEOs, but they can also result in animosity between management and directors. So here’s a new method for avoiding board fights. Have you ever considered being your own board?

“There was only one person on the board, and that was me, and we always got along.”

Brent Constantz, entrepreneur

Brent Constantz, founder of cleantech firm Calera, came to this idea from direct experience. As the founder of numerous companies, Constantz regrets the time he lost preparing for board meetings, claiming this work can devour up to 20 percent of a management team’s time. Rather than preparing a defense for every operational decision he made, this time would have been better utilized focusing on innovation and operations. “It’s a sad thing, but board[s] of directors debilitate companies,” says Constantz. “It’s not intended, but it’s the reality of the situation.”

A few companies back, Constantz decided to be his own board of one. No longer would he deal with directors who don’t review the board packet and then fire off “shoot from the hip” decisions. Nor would he have to deal with these same directors questioning the intelligence of their own decisions in the following month’s meeting. While Constantz sees value in putting together advisory boards and quarterly operating plans, he admits being a board of one has real benefits. “There was only one person on the board, and that was me, and we always got along.”

Watch Brent Constantz’ entire ETL seminar at ECorner.