Customer Reviews: Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors
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on June 21, 2014
I have read numerous books on Boards of Directors, and have sat on both Boards of Directors and Boards of Advisors. I read Brad Feld’s blog (Feld Thoughts), and have learned a lot from it, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

On the positive side, it is well written, and an easier read than many books on Boards (not exactly a scintillating topic). It is quite thorough, and covers some topics that I have not seen covered elsewhere (e.g., Going Out of Business). It is very strong on communications with your Board, better than any other book I have read.

My one significant concern speaks to the authors’ backgrounds. The book is very much oriented toward startups that are involved with venture capital, that go through a seed round of financing, then Round A, Round B, etc., and that are internet or software related. This is not surprising, given the authors’ backgrounds, but it makes the book less useful to the vast majority of startups that are not as described.

If you are a startup in the high-tech, high-growth, venture-funded arena, by all means buy this book, read, reread it, and pay attention to its sage advice.

If, however, you are like most startups, funded by friends and families, expecting to grow as fast as internal cash allows, and are in a non-high-tech business, you will still learn a lot from this book, but I would recommend you first read “5 Steps to Board Success” (Mark Daly) and/or “Creating Effective Boards for Private Enterprises” (John Ward).

A couple of specific comments:

(a) In several places the authors recommend that you have your attorney attend board meetings and take the minutes. Perhaps this is important for the types of companies they invest in, but I believe it is overkill for most companies – no board I have sat on has done this. That said, make sure the person taking minutes (perhaps the corporate secretary) knows what s/he is doing so the minutes are concise, accurate, and only include appropriate material.

(b) Many startups formed today (perhaps a majority) are LLCs (limited liability companies) rather than corporations. LLCs do not have Boards of Directors. They can have Boards of Advisors, or (if manager managed) can have a “board” of members who act like Directors, appointing executives, etc. While this book has a (good) chapter on Boards of Advisors, I wish they had integrated more discussion of LLCs into this chapter in particular, and into the book as a whole. I do not believe they mention LLCs anywhere in the entire book.

Any startup CEO will learn a lot from this book; CEOs of high-tech, high-growth, venture funded startups will particularly benefit.
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on May 29, 2015
All of Brad's books are amazing and this is no exception.

Even though I'm on my second company, I had yet to find a resource that really helped me understand all the dynamics of startup boards. Brad's book does that well through a mix of real life examples and best pratices. From why they exist to how to build them right to the dynamics involved, this book covers it all. And it's definitely a book you can keep going back to over time.

Being great at leading a board definitely takes a lot of practice.
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on June 17, 2016
This a book I have recommended multiple times. It offers practical advice and insight into the responsibilities and practicalities of setting up and running a startup board. It is also very readable - highly recommended. I wish this had existed 20 years ago.
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on January 11, 2014
The "board" is that mysterious group that meets in closed smoky rooms, sipping expensive scotch and making the decisions for your company? Now we get a "fly on the wall" look at what the board actually should be doing, and how.

Great advice on what makes a good board and how a bad one can kill a great company. Keys to the kingdom:
How do you pick board-members?
Board compensation, who much?
What records need to be kept, and why?
What is the power of the board?
What can you do, and what should you do when it goes wrong?

This book is mostly about corporations; I was looking for more on Not For Profit; but even with that it was worth the time; it was a great read.
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on September 2, 2014
I just posted a long review of this book to my blog. The short version of that review: Whether you are hesitating to build your board or already actively managing it, read this book. Underline its diagnoses, and put asterisks next to its prescriptions. Its content is most relevant to those who have (or may soon have) investors on their boards, but much is also relevant to other types of boards. As you face the issues Feld and Ramsinghani raise, you will hopefully save yourself much time and unnecessary pain down the road by knowing common board-management pitfalls and how to prevent or resolve them.
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on June 24, 2015
I know some have criticized this book for being VC oriented. This is true but you can easily substitute VC for non working capital partner and realize the push and pulls that happen are all the same. This book is amazingly practical and great guidance for any kind of startup involving 3 or more people that is non family business especially if founders have dreams of scaling
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on November 24, 2015
This is a must have book for a Startup CEOs that raises or wants to raise Angel and Venture financing. Brad does a great good of explaining how to recruit new board members. Also, Brad explains what the CEO should look for in new potential board members. Startup Boards covers how to effective run a board meetings and how to get stuff done during a board meeting.

The right board of directors can help a CEO manage and grow an business enterprise. Also, boards can help the CEO recruit new talent to grow the business enterprise.

I highly recommend Startup Boards for current CEOs and any aspiring CEO.
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on September 27, 2014
As a company grows a board becomes necessary. Good boards can launch a great company but bad boards can sink a venture faster than you can say ‘Titanic’. This book attempts to show how founders can recruit a good board, how staff can relate to the board effectively and how directors can add value to the enterprise. It is a valiant attempt; serving the needs of different user groups in one book is as difficult as serving two masters, which we all know is something no man can do!

Against all odds this book succeeds in meeting its aims.

The book is written and presented in a colloquial, up-beat modern manner. It will appeal to younger entrepreneurs although it would add value to even the greyest haired founder. Whilst it lacks scholarly depth, it is a highly practical book with some great tables and process recommendations that will help a novice CEO, founder or board member to approach and mange board challenges with confidence and a good chance of success. Some of the processes are described in a step by step manner. This makes it an easy to follow guide for designing board composition, recruiting members, developing a board agenda and even handling the tricky issues of CEO and board succession.

The governance theory is enlivened by transcripts of candid conversations with entrepreneurs, founders, angel investors, VCs and board members. My favourite quote (somewhat extreme) was “If I don’t get fired I know I had a good board meeting” which was hopefully said with tongue in cheek and twinkle in eye. Most of these offer valuable insights and cover a range of start-ups from Google and LinkedIn down to unsuccessful ventures that nobody (except for the people involved) will remember.

The inclusion of some unhappy endings in the selection of case studies is one of the factors that lifts this book out of the ordinary and into an exceptional class of its own. Anyone can cobble together a homily based on the insights of a successful entrepreneur – not many authors can counter balance those with insights extracted from a range of other successes, achieved in other ways at other times, and then compare these to failure stories to achieve a set of recommendations that should stand the test of time (and entrepreneurial ingenuity).

A few definitions lack rigour. I was particularly perturbed by the confusion of lead director and chairman roles. A cursory review of governance theory would have cleared that up. The executive nature of start-up boards and the role of a founder as CEO or Chairman was handled well. Start-ups are renowned for combining and confusing these roles and the text does well to illustrate where they differ and where they can safely overlap. Then it shoots itself in the foot by assigning gender to ‘chairman’ when the terminology is based on the Latin for ‘serving’ rather than any gender. The imprecise terminology is one of the key areas where the modernity and contemporary style has overtaken scholastic rigour.

An inclusion which is entirely modern, and very well researched, is the section on gender diversity in the boardroom. This is addressed with refreshing candour and from the correct viewpoint of increasing shareholder value. It is also written simply, directly, without any references to public policy, rhetoric and with no Pollyannaism. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a trend in addressing that particular topic.

The section on conflicts of interest is a much needed addition to start-up board literature. Too many books extoll the virtues of alignment and vested interest without considering the downside. This book not only considers the downside, it gives simple steps for managing the issues and avoiding the downside. It also provides guidance for those occasions when the downside is inevitable and tough decisions must be made.

I will certainly be sharing my copy widely and giving a copy to the start-up boards that I advise. Governance scholars and more experienced directors may wish to read this in conjunction with Adam Epstein’s book ‘The Perfect Corporate Board’. Founders and VCs who find this book useful now may opt to read that one after they have grown to a positive revenue stage or, at latest, prior to IPO.

Overall Mahendra and Brad have done a superb job: This book is a valuable addition to any director’s bookshelf and comes with my highest recommendation.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance adviser, and mentor to directors. She is the author of “Dilemmas, Dilemmas: practical case studies for company directors’, “The Director’s Dilemma”, “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector” and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.
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on March 2, 2014
As expected, this book has been a truly valuable resource. As a first time CEO - this book has helped me to understand how to assemble and get the most out of a board of directors - which is what I was looking for. If you've read Brad's blog or any of his previous books - you should have a good idea of what to expect. It's plain-spoken, with plenty of examples from real-life situations.
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on March 8, 2014
As stated early in the book, "most startups fail due to self-inflicted wounds", including ignoring the importance of recruiting the right Board. Whatever stage your business is in, invest your time to read and act on the advice from this terrific book, it will make you a better CEO. Brad Feld's experience, augmented by contributions from other successful business builders will give you the best perspective on how to recruit a Board that will challenge you, guide you, support you and most importantly, call you out, when required.
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