The Longest Explanation Ever.
Or: Why We Made Zeck.
Alright, this is the longest explanation ever and you should probably only read it when you’re super bored. Maybe on a cross country flight.
At our first company, Moosejaw, we couldn’t have been worse at building our board decks. It took our team no less than 50 hours a quarter to build a deck that was mostly awful.
I checked some of our old decks recently and our shortest deck was still over 100 pages. We didn’t know what to include in our deck so we added everything.The result was a deck with way too many reports, no prompts for strategic discussions, no key takeaways, etc.
Our team hated everything about the board meetings and so did our board. Please note that this was all my fault. The lunches weren’t even that good.
At our next company, CrowdRise, building the board decks took no less time, which was pretty brutal, but we did get better at surfacing the items our board could actually help us with and we got real value out of our board discussions.
More recently, my smarter brother and I have, for the first time, sat on the other side of the table as board members and as advisors to CEO’s and founders, as opposed to being the operators ourselves.
And, we’ve seen that the board process is pretty terrible, the decks are way too long and everyone dreads pretty much everything about the process.
So, with a couple companies that we work with, we built a more concise template for their board decks and tried improving all their processes related to the board meeting.
We didn’t have Zeck in mind at this point but the response was remarkably and universally positive. In fact, when we implemented the first iteration of our template, a big shot at a company that everyone in the world knows said “this is the best board deck I’ve ever seen.” Most of our quotes and studies are entirely made-up but that quote is actually real.
Why is the board meeting inefficient and universally despised?
Mostly because everyone’s been going at their board meetings the exact same way for way too long. No one reads the entirety of a 60 or 100 page deck. And, in most cases, when skimming for the most crucial information, you get lost in a morass of text and reports. Plus, decks may be fine to show on a giant screen at SXSW but they’re definitely not optimized for a board meeting.
For some reason the awesome platforms that are defining the shifts in the way we operate (think Asana and DocuSign) have just not specifically addressed your most important and stressful meeting.
We built Zeck to reinvent the archaic board meeting so that everything relevant to the process from your preparation to compliance to your relationship with your board members gets way better, which in theory, will make your company way better.
The Decent Humans at Zeck
A Mess of Things That Open and Close.
So Much Time.
It takes way too long for the CEO, COO, CFO and the entire team to create their board materials... And, the end result is usually not so awesome. At our companies, we just never knew the right information to include or the best way to run a board meeting. Seems like the issues we always had are pretty ubiquitous. Big word. Probably didn’t use it correctly.
How many pages was your last board deck? Probably too many. You need to include reports but is there a chance you included some unnecessarily? Did you include key takeaways and create real strategic discussions so your board can actually help?
I love the way Seth Levine from Foundry, an awesome VC in Boulder, characterizes a primary challenge when he said something like ‘If I had more time, I would have written a shorter note.’
Zeck solves everything with a VC, PE, CEO, CFO, COO-approved framework.
Your team no longer needs to guess about the information that should be included in your presentation in order to have meaningful board meetings. That was a really long sentence. We’ve crowdsourced a template that is smart, consistent, customizable, incredibly easy to follow and results in a more focused board discussion.
One quick example, you’ll no longer have to build from scratch every time. Whether you use the Zeck framework or customize it for your company (which is super easy) you’ll update your Zeck template, integrate it with live reports and share.
The time saving with Zeck is crazy.
The Only Way to Collaborate with Your Team.
How do you build your board decks now? We didn’t allow everyone who contributed to the process to see every section.
The person who led customer service didn’t see the financials, for example. That meant that we’d basically have each person build their own section of the deck. Then, after going back and forth with everyone separately for weeks, we’d combine it all together in one presentation. Such a pain.
With Zeck, you give permission-based access to your team by section. So, your director of customer service has access to her section but can’t see the financials, for example. Plus, our commenting system allows you to have private conversations with those who have access to each specific section. Plus, take your notes, deal with action items and get instant ‘reactions’ directly on your board site.
Having everything in one place and dramatically improving the way everyone collaborates is just easier. And better.
Zeck Isn’t a Deck.
Zeck is a fully interactive website.
Remember when mail order catalogs were a great way to shop and then the internet and e-commerce came along.
Right now, you’re using that print catalog. Linear decks are just old.
Zeck isn't a deck. Zeck is a site. And, the idea that you’re using a responsive website ignites functionality, and some magic, that is literally impossible to achieve with a deck.
One quick example...you get the upside of a seamless reading experience with the option to click around to different sections. Think NYTimes.com or ESPN.com.
Zeck is intuitive, simple to use (which is just another way to say intuitive), easy to follow and replicable. The difference between Zeck and anything you’re using now is pretty remarkable. You sort of have to see it to believe it.
Optimized for Mobile.
Your current board deck might look great. But, that means you probably have a graphic designer solving everything.
Or, maybe your deck doesn’t look so good and you’re not all that concerned about it. Regardless, have you tried reading through your board deck on your phone? It’s probably a pretty bad experience, particularly when it comes to data and tables.
Your Zeck will look amazing and read as well as NYTimes.com across all devices, including mobile, and you won’t need a graphic designer to make it on brand.
So Good for Our Hybrid World.
There is nothing worse than being the one person who joins a board call via Zoom while everyone else is in the room live.
Yet, according to a made-up study, that’ll be the state of the board meeting forever. Zeck is built for this new world.
Zeck makes the chaos of board meetings more manageable and, dare I say, delightful. Collaborative communication tools, easy governance, read-ahead content and the ability to ask and answer questions in advance of your live meeting are all quick examples of features that dramatically improve efficiencies. Ultimately, Zeck allows everyone who is virtual to still make valuable contributions and not think their participation is anywhere from a waste to disruptive.
Surfacing the Most Important Info.
Everyone is tired of going through a deck one page at a time and simply reading through the information on the screen in front of ‘em like the weather report.
That’s not the way Zeck works.
No more board meetings where everyone just reads through the first 25 pages of a deck then actually has a productive discussion during lunch and then goes back to reading the next 48 pages.
Of course, everyone can dig into all the reports and tables they want but, we’ve reimagined the system to surface key takeaways, allow everyone to easily navigate to distinct sections, creatively integrate ‘see more’ functionality and specifically drive strategic discussions.
One example...Zeck consolidates the most important discussion topics into the 5 Minute Board Deck. Patent pending. Really I don’t think it’s Patent Pending so please don’t steal this idea.
One more example...Zeck specifically surfaces a quick ‘what you need to know’ in your key sections.
The result is a game-changing experience for your board...which is ultimately awesome for you and your company.
Zeck’s system for comments and quick, Instagram-like reactions is awesome and enables your board members to prepare more efficiently prior to your board meeting, engage in real-time during your board meeting and easily generate follow-up items post-board meeting. That was the record for the number of times anyone has typed ‘meeting’ in one sentence.
With Zeck, instead of having some notes via text, a few emails and eight thousand slack messages, all the feedback will be in a summarized list so you can attack next steps most efficiently and have way better communication with your board.
One Home for All Your Board Meetings.
According to a survey of one person who is on a bunch of boards, it typically takes nine hours to find a prior board deck.
With Zeck, all of your board sites are stored in your profile and use a consistent format from board meeting to board meeting. With a click, or maybe two clicks, you have easy access to everything…board minutes, votes, Zecks from prior year, etc.
Again, the idea is to make everything smart and easy for you and your board.
Have a Conversation with Your Board.
The framework plus the countless features that are a part of Zeck result in a more meaningful and maybe even fun board meeting.
The result is that you drive strategic conversations instead of just reading through a really long list. Yep, that’s it. Zeck is conversational. All in the interest of actually giving your board a chance to help you more.
Before we get into it...there’s a decent chance your attorneys will like Zeck even more than you do.
Did we sign the minutes from the prior board meeting? Have you ever been in a board meeting when that question wasn’t asked? Or, I can’t recall whether or not we actually voted on getting more options to our COO. And, where do we actually store everything so we can find it again?
Governance is tough and typically not prioritized until it’s too late. Zeck solves all of it in a really cool way so that you don’t have to set a thousand reminders plus have two attorneys on hand and constantly consume yourself with ‘process’ to get it all right.
There is just about nothing worse than dealing with all the compliance issues that come up in due diligence.
We’ve had to dig in a few times and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any better at it. In real-time, thinking about complying with board bi-laws just doesn’t hit the top of the priority list.
Zeck solves all of it within the operating system. That means you don’t need to worry about whether you're messing everything up and going to have to spend nine thousand hours with your attorneys dealing with it all later.
How did you get your most recent deck to your board? Guessing you emailed it...
That’s the way we typically communicated our board materials. But, is that always the right way to send across your company’s most vital information? Maybe not.
Zeck meets the highest level security requirements and nothing needs to be passed through risky communication channels. Instead, anyone who has permission is logging into your Zeck the same way they’d access a bank account.
That was all a glimpse into some Zeck features. There’s more but probably best if I stop ranting.
You probably didn’t start your company or take your job because you’d be great at building a board deck or because you’d be phenomenal at getting value out of your board. No one who has ever started or run a company has contemplated this process. Yet, your board meetings are your most important meetings of the year.
Zeck flips the process entirely.
The result is that the meeting you always dread the most turns into the best meeting ever for your company.
And, just so you know, while we’re maniacally focused on the board deck, this is just step one. The goal is to dramatically improve all of your most important meetings. The next steps are secrets but it’s going to be great.
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This is the best 'deck' I have ever seen. Credit to you, your team for the results… and to Zeck. The format and readability are awesome.
- Charlie Rothstein, Founder, Senior Managing Director, Beringea