Your job is to manage the board of directors or they will manage you. First timers have to learn that. Serial entrepreneurs take that job very seriously. Done well it ensures the best for the company. Done poorly the management of the company becomes hell for the CEO and employees.
The board consists typically of an odd number, three or five or seven, to ensure that decisions are made. For instance, a board of five would include two from management (CEO and a vice president, typically founders), two venture capitalists and one so-called neutral executive (from a related industry or as a person experienced with startups). Smaller boards work more efficiently than larger ones. Five is typical for early stage venture backed startups.
How They Work
Startup boards meet monthly, unlike the quarterly meetings of large public corporations. This frequency enables non-management board members to keep up with the rapid changes in the startup. That keeps information fresh and contributes to quality decisions. The agenda is agree to in advance, PowerPoint slides are emailed a few days before the meeting and the CEO calls each board member in advance to confirm the day and agenda.
Between board meetings it is common to have the CEO responding to random phone calls and emails from individual board members who have asked questions or sent information to the CEO. This can lead to more time spent with one board member and can distort the process of decision making.
If an issue pops up between board meetings that cannot wait for the next scheduled meeting, then a conference phone call meeting is arranged. There the issue is reviewed and action is decided on. Such meetings are common in startups and are done in spite of the havoc created with time schedules of active people on the board. Strange times of the day are required when people are spread over the globe in different time zones. That is one special aspect of startups.
The CEO must ensure that board meetings are not where surprises are announced. Everyone is expected to know in advance of any sensitive issues. That is avoided by having the CEO spend time on the phone with each board member before scheduled meetings.