Contributing or Meddling

As a VC board member at a handful of companies, I think a lot about whether certain board member actions are contributing or meddling.  Where is the right line for the particular situation?  How will management react to a particular input?  What level of contact is right for the given management group?

It is an interesting and difficult situation.  I tend to be quick to fire off an email asking questions.  I tend to be quick to offer input.  It is often well received, but not always.  Often, in anticipation of an upcoming board meeting, I send the company’s CEO a bunch of questions via email.  Will they be answered prior to the meeting?  I am not sure, but I am glad that I wrote them down to give the CEO a better understanding of where my mind is at.

Open communication is critical and part of the VC = OB (see earlier post) puzzle.  Too much communication can be viewed as meddling.  I think, however, that VC board members are simply trying to contribute.  Wanting to contribute is a normal human response.  The fact that we have money at stake in a given company adds urgency to the “contribution” instinct.

In one extreme, a VC board member may literally talk with a CEO every day – with calls going both ways hopefully.  The team work feels great.  At the other end, at a different company, the same VC board member may only talk with the CEO every other week.  And the team work still feels great.  And there are times when communications are painful and stressful even when completely routine.

Bottom line:  find the right balance factoring in the mindset of the VC and the CEO.  Strike the right balance, but keep communicating always.

VC = OB

I have been a VC for seven years, have learned a lot since the beginning and have had many ups and downs.  Partnering with numerous management teams is awesome, challenging, exhilarating, and sometimes mind numbing.  Partnering with numerous management teams is what VC is all about.  VC = organizational behavior.   The successful partnership is perhaps the most important element of building company value.   Short post.