Why One of Your Board Meeting Goals Should Be Addressing the Elephant in the Room

April 24, 2012

When you look up the phrase “the elephant in the room” in Wikipedia you get:

“Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.
The first quarter ended and now is when board season begins for founders and or CEO’s, their investors, and independent board members. Board meetings begin and board meetings will end, and unfortunately many of them never get around to talking about that prickly pachyderm, “the elephant in the room.”

What could be going unaddressed? Examples include:

  • Board members may not have confidence in the Sales VP’s (or feel free to substitute any management title including CEO) ability to execute
  • The company’s DSO is growing
  • The win/loss ratio is going in the wrong direction
  • Development does not appear to be able to deliver the product on time or in a quality manner
  • The management team is not strong enough or broad enough to take the company to the next level
  • The company’s competitive messaging and marketing does not resonate with the market segment they have targeted
  • The company looks like it will miss its budget and it is only the first quarter
  • There’s not enough capital

And the list goes on and on…

At OpenView, it is our objective to make sure this does not happen in the board meetings with our portfolio companies. After all, nothing impedes an expansion-stage company’s progress more than an elephant in the room that does not get addressed, talked about, and remedied.

Everyone who is involved at the board level needs to make it their responsibility to talk about the elephant, or, more likely, the elephants in the room (because when you have a company that is growing rapidly and trying to scale there is often more than one) during the board meeting. If you’re not, a simple but effective way to make sure you do is make to it the last item on the board agenda for every meeting. You owe it to yourself and everyone in your company to discuss problems and issues no matter how uncomfortable they might be. Otherwise, you risk never living up to your potential, or, worse yet, you might just become another company that does not succeed in the market place.

Think about it…

All the best!


Editor’s Note: Board meetings are undeniably important, but another meeting may have an even greater impact on your company’s performance — the quarterly operating review. For information on the quarterly operating review process as well as the practical guidance and tools you need to start implementing your own, download OpenView’s free eBook, Quarterly Operating Reviews: Moving Your Business Forward by Looking Back.


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.