It's a challenge women managers and entrepreneurs face frequently. A technology investment becomes imperative to solve a serious business challenge:
- Launch a new product to generate additional revenue
- Satisfy a customer need to protect revenue
- Improve internal operations to reduce cost or improve efficiencies
But the board isn't always thrilled about approving investments in technology, for many reasons:
- Skepticism that the investment is necessary, and not just an effort to keep up with the joneses
- Concerns about costs spiraling out of control
- General lack of education about the technology you require
How can you get the board on your side? There are two components to this challenge. In part two of this blog, we'll tackle best practices for the board meeting itself. But first, let's review the specific steps you should take before the board meeting even occurs, both while preparing a presentation and speaking with board members privately.
1. Clearly define your objective. How important is this technology to your business plans? What is the impact to customers? Create a cost-benefit analysis and understand the return-on-investment before you go to the next step. Also consider plan B, in case the board doesn't approve your request.
2. Introduce the idea to individual board members. Call or meet with individual board members, especially those who are not tech-savvy or who can be generally difficult. They can ask questions in private and alert you to concerns ahead of time. (Later, during the formal presentation, you can build goodwill by saying, "I know some of you were concerned about this issue, and here's what we've done to address that.") Get individual members' feedback on the importance of the project and what might make the solution stronger. Ask how they would sell the idea to the rest of the board. Do this with as many board members as you can. Don't surprise them with a significant proposal in a board meeting, or you will end up being surprised with a "no" vote.
3. When creating your formal presentation, think about individual board members. It's important to understand your audience. For example, you might talk differently to a long-standing group of board members than you would to a board with several new members. Your talk should be tailored to their level of technical understanding. As CEO, your job is to present the business benefits of the project, not teach board members how to become technical jargon heads.
4. Create slides, but never forget the presentation is you. Describe your goal up front. Focus your funding request through the lens of how it will benefit the end-user, customer or business. Never overload slides with information, which will cause the audience to spend more time reading than listening. And never read the slides to the board members. It is a safe bet that you have chosen board members who can read. They are interested in what you have to say about the topic. Remember, you are the presentation. Speak to the key points. Give examples, and tell stories about actual customers. Prepare, practice, and practice again. If possible, practice in front of another person. (Dogs are good, but can prove to be an overly exuberant audience.) Practice in front of a non-technical person and ask for feedback. Did they understand the points you were trying to make? Could they restate your goal for the meeting? Would they support you? Once you've followed these critical steps, it's time to organize your notes, square your shoulders and march into that board meeting. Get some great pointers for presenting a winning presentation to your board in our next blog.
Co-founder of Austin-based Growth Acceleration Partners (GAP), Joyce Durst is driven to help software companies achieve rapid growth through business-focused applications. Joyce has launched startups and led teams at enterprise companies by applying her passion and business knowledge to efficiently create software that solves business problems. Active in the community with Special Olympics and Springboard alumni, she enjoys helping other women in technology to achieve their dreams.