When I had surgery on my right knee in 2013, I found it extremely painful for the first six weeks after the surgery to cross my leg and put the sock and shoe on my right foot. I made a mental note and developed a personal mantra of sorts, “do the right shoe first,” and it’s become my code to always try to get the hard, unpleasant stuff out of the way at the beginning. (Of course, there were plenty of times in that period when I was putting on the left shoe first, and I was well aware of the pain I was trying to postpone.)
I was thinking about this the other day when I was reviewing the board presentation for a company in the beverage industry run by a friend. It started with the issues we all love – a new alliance, the potential for a new investor, and a new concept for an electronic newsletter. (There are so many dynamic, interesting issues for most of us to focus on in this industry when it comes to exciting new brands — new authorizations, a new hire, some designs for new packaging.) For this particular company, it wasn’t until very much later in the presentation that the hard issues were addressed – a fast-approaching lack of cash and a failure to hit budget, again.
We all seem to want to avoid the uncomfortable at times. My advice to beverage entrepreneurs, or for that matter anyone preparing the board package for an early-stage company, is simple: start with cash and burn rate, and then dive headfirst into the most uncomfortable issues (lawsuits, a messy cap table, missed budgets, etc.) This approach will help the board get to the truth faster and make the right fixes. Once these issues have been addressed, it will make the rest of the board meeting much more pleasant and productive.