Return to site

More Structure, Less Stress: Five Things to Include in Your Board Reports

If you’re a CEO with a board meeting next week, you are, most likely, stressed. In fact, your whole organization has probably been spending too much time preparing your board report. You’ve involved a lot of people from the business, which will detract from actually running the business. It’s a constant challenge.

With some expert advice and advanced planning, you can change that. Get comfortable and clear on what you need to include in your report, so you don’t spend too much time going back and forth and adding things and taking them away. It’s a waste of your — and your team’s — valuable time.

Your board is there to help you (read “Four Essential Tips for Managing Your Board” to ensure you maximize their contributions);, and they need proper information to do so. If you start with a standard structure, gathering the elements and preparing your board reports will be much easier. I suggest you include the following five things in your board packet for every board meeting:

1. CEO’s strategic update

The best CEO reports I’ve seen include a true overview of the business’ highs and the lows. This honest assessment builds trust and value, because you’re giving the board a holistic look at the company. The board would probably be a bit suspicious if everything looked rosy; there are always going to be ups and downs in a business.

2. KPIs

While KPIs will vary by business, the things to definitely include are cash and runway. For most businesses, there will also be something around sales and marketing, such as growth in bookings or customer success. You’ll probably want some metrics around HR, team hiring, financial statements and product development. If you have a product roadmap, include milestones on that, as well.

3. Departmental updates

Departmental updates are a way to give more detail by function. Include at least one page, where the department head lays out the key highlights since the last meeting, along with challenges and priorities. I suggest a combination of narrative and dashboard styles, including departmental metrics and KPIs. This lets the board see very quickly what’s happening at a deeper level. For a software company, you might include customer success, sales, marketing and product engineering. Ideally, the department head would present their own slide(s) at the meeting and be there to answer questions.

4. Strategic deep dive

This will vary by what you need to go into deeply right now for this specific board meeting. To determine what this is, try to zoom out of the business and assess where you need to be and where you are today. What are the top two to three hurdles you are facing? Those would form the strategic deep dive. Typically, it would be areas around market dynamics; changes in competition, environment or regulation; or maybe internal talent retention. Deep dive into the things that are really affecting your business in a key manner. There could be a question mark around the direction of the company — there are going to be lots of twists and turns for every company as they’re growing and getting to their objectives. The hardest thing is probably limiting it to two to three things, but it is important to do so.

5. Financials

Don’t forget the financials! At the most basic level, this would be your P&L and balance sheet to show how you’ve performed. Having the outlook for what’s going to happen in the next quarter and the rest of the year is also important; this may have changed from the time you set your budget.

If you’ve got those five areas, then you are covering your reporting needs for each board meeting. Be sure to send your packet out at least five business days ahead of the meeting, so it can be digested by board members beforehand.

A CFO plays a key role in what goes into a comprehensive board-meeting packet. If preparing for your board meetings is causing stress on you — and your business — and you need help putting together all or part of your report, please reach out to me. I’m happy to help.