Making board meetings fun

I have two companies in my portfolio that make every board meeting an incredible experience. They shall remain nameless, but they know who they are.

They both raised money from international  investors early. They are both headquartered in European cities that are not London or Paris. 

When I started first attending these boards, I was shocked. They would have an elaborate board dinner at a top restaurant (and I mean Michelin star, internationally renowned chef, Pellegrino list type). They would add a cultural event, like attending the symphony, or touring a city, or visiting an art gallery. We'd meet the conductor, the mayor, the artist.

They would vary locations across the European continent where there was some connection  (perhaps an investor was based there, or a supplier). 

I estimated each board meeting cost tens of thousands of dollars given travel expenses and extracurricular activities. Sure, these companies had raised millions of dollars in venture capital. But it still seemed like a massive expense relative to really frugal operations.

I've come to believe operating boards like this is 100% worth it for a few reasons:

First, no one misses these boards. No VC, no independent director. No one dials in. They are awesome, fun experiences. People travel for a day or more to attend. 

Second, the social cohesion on these boards is the very best in my portfolio. People have gotten to know each other over time and there's trust and empathy and a willingness to go the extra mile. Folks are consistently available for management and the board members for each other. It's invaluable when things get tough. 

Third, attending the board meetings for management other than the founders of the companies is a great experience. They get significant exposure to the board in a social setting and the trips serve as a big incentive. 

Fourth, they make what can be a tough trip for VCs and NEDs (flying in for a few hours, turning around and flying out) into a social event that lasts ~1.5 days. People start to spend real time with the company. They start to grok the business and its challenges at a more detailed level. The depth of discussion increases.

Overall, I wish more of my companies took this approach. Turning boards into a social event beyond a few hours spent in a room together pays off over time.