Nov 092010

Why I Love My Board

Why I Love My Board, Part II

I’ve written a few things about my Board of Directors over the years, some of which I note below.  Part I of this series isn’t particularly useful, though there’s an entertaining link in it to a video of Fred that’s worth looking at if you know or follow him.

Today, we are happy to announce that we are adding a new independent director, Scott Petry, the founder of Postini and now a senior email product leader at Google (read the official press release [here]).  Scott’s a fantastic addition to our already strong Board, and the process of recruiting and adding him has made me reflect a bit on my Board and its strengths and weaknesses, so I thought I’d share a couple of those thoughts here.

I think Return Path has cultivated a very high functioning Board over the years, and I feel very fortunate to have the group that we have.  Here are the top five things I think make our Board special, in no particular order.

  1. We have great individuals on the Board.  Each of our individual Board members — Fred Wilson, Greg Sands, Scott Weiss, Scott Petry, and Brad Feld (now officially an observer), (in addition to me) — could anchor a super strong Board in his own right and have all served on multiple Boards of related companies.  And not only do these guys know their stuff…they do their homework.  They all come to every meeting very well prepared.
  2. The individual Board members are different but have different experiences and personalities that complement each other nicely.  Among the three VCs on the Board, two have operating experience, one as a founder and one in product management.  Among the two industry CEOs, one has more of a business development focus, and the other has deep technical expertise.  Some directors are excitable and a bit knee-jerk, others are more reflective; some are aggressive and others are more conservative; some have extremely colorful metaphors, others are a bit more steeped in traditional pattern recognition.
  3. We have built a great team dynamic that encourages productive conflict.  I assume a lot of rooms full of great directors of different types are so ego-laden that people just talk over each other.  Our group, for whatever reason, doesn’t function that way.  We are engaged and in each others’ faces during meetings, no one is afraid to voice an opinion, and we listen to each other.  Some of this may be the way we spend time together outside of Board rooms, which I wrote about in The Social Aspects of Running a Board. Some is about just making sure to have fun, which I wrote about in The Good, The Board, and The Ugly (Part I, Part II, Part III), I talk about other aspects of running a good Board, including making sure to have fun – that post includes an entertaining picture of now-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and a few of his friends from his FeedBurner days.
  4. We are deliberate about connecting the Board and the Executive team, and the rest of the company.  We encourage every director to have a direct relationship with every one of my direct reports.  They connect both during and outside of meetings, and they have gotten to know each other well over the years.  This is much more helpful to us than a more traditional “hourglass” structure where all connections go through the CEO.
  5. We run great meetings.  We send out a single, well-organized document several days before the meeting.  Board members do their homework.  We focus on current and future issues more than reporting on historical numbers, and we no longer do any presentations — it’s all discussion (I also wrote about a lot of this here in PowerPointLess).

Welcome to the Return Path family, Scott P – we are delighted to have you on board our Board!

May 062008

Book Short: Presentation Zen

Book Short:  Presentation Zen

A few years ago, I blogged about Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullets.  I don’t know whether it’s a better book, or whether the timing of reading it just made a deeper impression on me, but I just read and LOVED Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds.

The concept is similar — a bad Powerpoint presentation kills your message as much as that horrendous high school physics teacher turned you off from the natural sciences.  Reynolds’s examples are rich, and there are tons of “before and after” slides in the book for the visual learners among us.  In addition, he articulates very clearly what I’ve always thought, since my consulting days, made for an excellent presentation:  offline storyboarding.

I’d recommend the book to anyone who does a lot of Powerpoint.  Relevant Return Pathers, don’t worry, your copies will come soon along with a new training course I’m developing using some of the concepts within.

Jun 232004

It’s Official – There’s a Blog About Everything

Well, not everything yet, but that day is getting closer.

Jack, my VP Finance and an avid blog reader (but not yet publisher) pointed me to Beyond Bullets, a relatively new blog about Powerpoint written by Cliff Atkinson, described in his bio as “a leading authority on Powerpoint and organizational communications.” Who knew such an expert existed?

The blog is pretty good and worth reading for people who regularly design and give stand-up presentations and are tired of the same old, same old Powerpoint templates. I read through most of the postings so far, and while some are a little esoteric, many of the tips are great. Most are either about the actual software and things you can do with it or presentation design and organization. I’ve always thought I was good at Powerpoint, but I don’t hold a candle to Cliff.

After reading Brad’s post this morning on The Torturous World of Powerpoint, I can’t help but wonder if he’d be less tortured if more people knew how to design and give good presentations.

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