Feb 13 2020

The Challenge of Being an Excellent Board Member

When I started blogging in 2004, there weren’t many VC bloggers. I followed Fred Wilson and David Hornik’s lead and just started writing what was on my mind about, well, anything that was on my mind.

Today, VC content pieces are everywhere. I’ve become less interested in writing this kind of stuff so my blog has evolved into whatever is on my mind, but a lot less “VC stuff.”

Every now and then I come across a spectacular VC blog post (or article in Techcrunch, or one of the other places VCs now put their content pieces.) As I was procrastinating from what I was working on, I noticed an article titled Mike Volpi on the art of board membership.

It’s a spectacular article. Go read it now. I particularly like the topics he went after.

  • Nature of the relationship
  • The mirror
  • Context
  • Network
  • What happens in between
  • Availability and relevance
  • Delivering a message that can be heard

When I wrote Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors with Mahendra Ramsinghani, we tried to include constructive thoughts about how venture-backed boards work and how to improve them, along with plenty of examples. As I’ve been on some great, ok, and terrible boards (and have been an effective, mediocre, and ineffective board member), I find clear articles like Mike’s powerful as I reflect on how I act as a board member.

I ever get around to writing a 2nd Edition, I plan to reach out to Mike and see if I can include some of this. In the meantime, I leave you with his powerful, and well said ending.

Board membership is a privilege and a nuanced responsibility that can have a transformational impact on businesses. Sometimes investors, independents and entrepreneurs forget this. Entrepreneurs should expect a great deal from their boards — not as blind supporters but as true copilots. Likewise, board members should not view board membership as a list of icons on their LinkedIn profile, but as a subtle yet massively impactful role they play in the creation of great businesses. When these relationships function properly, the two parties become true partners in the entrepreneurial journey.