How to Prepare for Your Next Board Meeting Like a CFO (Even if You Don’t Have One In-House)

Business people sitting around a conference table

For growth businesses, the board of directors isn’t just a group you’re required to report to every quarter. These professionals often act as a sounding board you can bounce ideas off and a trusted advisor you can turn to for guidance in making strategic decisions that drive your business forward. That’s especially true if your company is still in the early stages of maturity or on a fast growth track.

When you meet with your board, you want to maximize the opportunity and optimize your engagement to ensure that you and they get as much out of the experience as possible.

Given that your financial performance and strategy are key components of any board discussion, CFO-level insights play a critical role in your small to midsize business (SMB) board interactions. Even if you don’t have an in-house CFO, you should still prepare for your next board meeting as if you did.

What a Board Expects from a CFO

Each time you meet with your board, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s fiscal responsibility, show you’re executing on your financial and operational strategy, and illustrate how you’re fulfilling your vision. You’ll likely need to consider the best meeting cadence to ensure your board is fully informed and engaged as often as you and they feel necessary. While a quarterly schedule is common for mature or publicly held companies, for small or fast-changing companies a more frequent schedule may be better. In the early stages of your company’s maturity, monthly meetings and frequent interim communications may prove beneficial, especially if your SMB board includes investors.

No matter the structure or frequency of these gatherings, board members will expect a report on your financial performance and health. But there’s more to a CFO-level board presentation than compiling your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement and adding them to a PowerPoint deck.

CFO-Level Insights Your Board Will Look For

Your board will expect not only accurate and comprehensive financial statements, but insightful analysis of the data, too. They will:

  • Want to know how you’re tracking against key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’ve mutually agreed are the right measures for your business, including how they compare to competitors.
  • Need firm understanding of how you’re creating more value in the business, especially if you’re backed by private equity or venture capital and your investors have high expectations for rapid growth.
  • Expect to discuss strategic opportunities to improve your performance and accelerate your business growth—both in the short term (the next couple of reporting periods) and the long term (the next 12-18 months).
  • Engage in reviewing key financial ratios that reflect the company’s financial health—such as cash ratio, debt-to-equity ratio, and gross profit margin—and understand how they compare to industry benchmarks.
  • Look for financial projections based on solid, defensible assumptions about your business and your market, using financial modeling software that allows you to consider multiple scenarios.

Your board also will expect complete financial transparency in discussing the pressing issues impacting every enterprise today, including how you’re maintaining regulatory compliance, working to mitigate risks like supply chain constraints, inflationary pressures, and geopolitical threats, and managing IT governance. IT security will be especially important when it comes to ensuring your data is protected in the face of mounting cyber risks. Often, that requires your finance professional to build relationships with the board’s audit committee and conduct separate meetings with them to focus on areas of greatest risk.

Being prepared for board meetings also means ensuring you can anticipate their most likely financially-focused questions, proactively addressing issues raised during or since the last meeting, and laying out where your business is headed and how you plan to get there.  

And of course, knowing how to run a board meeting properly includes ensuring the engagement is productive. You’ll want to share your board package and agenda a few days ahead of time—giving board members sufficient time to review the information and come prepared with questions and insights. Otherwise, you risk wasting precious face-to-face time watching them wade through data for the first time.  

Preparing for the Board Like a CFO, Without an In-House CFO  

Preparing the CFO-level data, analyses, and insights your board expects—without an internal CFO—may seem daunting. But for many growth companies, the solution lies in hiring a fractional CFO.

A fractional CFO enables you to obtain CFO-level support for your business, without committing the overhead for an internal full-time equivalent (FTE). A fractional CFO is a dedicated senior-level finance professional—an experienced resource you tap exactly when and how you need them. Companies that aren’t ready to tie up capital on a full-time internal CFO find the fractional model affords them the same high-level skills and capabilities through a more cost-effective, practical approach.

Partnering with a fractional CFO helps you prepare for board meetings effectively and maximize your engagement. These finance professionals understand what an SMB board wants to know and have the capabilities to develop the data, analyses, and insights that will satisfy their needs. In preparing for board meetings, a fractional CFO partners with you just like an internal CFO would—getting fully immersed in the business, understanding your goals and strategies, and developing the data and insights your board expects. Many SMBs have their fractional CFOs participate in the board meeting in the same capacity an internal CFO would.

A fractional CFO also can add significant value to your business beyond board meeting preparation and attendance:

  • They ensure you have the foundational elements in place to gain the data-driven insights that will drive the business forward.
  • They provide thoughtful analysis that helps your management team make confident, informed decisions that accelerate your growth.
  • They help your business get to the next stage by ensuring you have a sound growth plan and the capital to turn it into reality.   

How Simple Startup Can Help

Simple Startup provides the fractional CFO services that SMBs depend on to prepare for effective board meetings and to drive the business forward.

Our fractional CFOs apply their deep experience across many companies and industries, including technology and consumer packaged goods, to develop the financial reports and analyses your board expects. We provide third-party oversight of your financials, anticipate the questions your board is likely to ask, think through the key issues you’ll want to address, and prepare the monthly or quarterly reports and analysis you’ll need to share.

Our fractional CFOs can even participate in your board meetings, serving as your trusted advisor and helping to answer questions—not only about your financials, but about the financial oversights board members increasingly expect you to make investments in, such as cybersecurity, talent, and environmental and social governance. Our attendance also helps us understand the board’s dynamic (gaining vital context for leading your strategic planning) and demonstrates you’re deploying resources strategically to set a strong foundation for success.

Contact Simple Startup to learn how our fractional CFO services can help you prepare for the most effective board meetings and drive your business forward.

About Lorne Noble

Lorne loves finance so you don’t have to (seriously, he plays with Excel sheets on vacation)! He spent 12 years in corporate London as an investment analyst then made the jump to Boulder, Colorado to act as finance mentor to high impact companies at The Unreasonable Institute, Girl Effect Accelerator and Singularity University. He has an MBA from IE business school in Madrid, Spain.

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