One of the recurring themes of dealing with VCs and boards is that we do not like surprises. In addition, tell us the facts, and if there are any negative surprises give us action steps on how you are going to remedy the situation. I have written about the VC/Entrepreneur relationship before and due to its importance will continue to write about it in this blog. Yesterday was one of those days where these themes kept surfacing in my conversations and email and I thought I would share a couple of examples with you.
In one meeting yesterday a VP of Sales candidate for one of my portfolio companies walked me through one of the biggest lessons learned in his first start-up experience – lay out realistic numbers and hit them. That means that if you do not have 100% confidence that you will hit the quarter, don’t pad your sales pipeline and wait until the end of the quarter to tell us about a potential miss. You are not doing us a favor by letting us feel like we are going to hit the quarter. Tell us as soon as you know – yes, board members can read between the lines as sales is a numbers game. In addition, explain the action steps you will take to solve the problem so it doesn’t happen again. To say the least, he learned alot from that first board experience.
Later in the day, I got an email from another portfolio company’s CEO outlining a potential issue with a key partner. Not only did I like the fact that he communicated with the board right away, but I loved how he included a detailed action plan to resolve the issue. This included securing a meeting with the decision maker ASAP. While all of us were concerned about the news and shared our own thoughts on the action plan, we all felt like we were doing all that we could to overcome the partner’s issues. In the end, I am sure it will work itself out, but it would have been utterly inexcusable if we learned about this after the fact.
Anyway, I hope these stories continue to hammer home the importance of working with your board in an open and collaborative manner. Look, bad things happen, but what gets a VC and board upset is not knowing soon enough, soon enough to potentially take corrective action.