How Stuart Levine prepares for board meetings.

Author:Hall, April
Position:BOARDBOOK: Survival Guide

Directors do a lot to prepare for board meetings, but what's better than talking to the CEO?

A week before every board meeting, Broadridge Financial Services director Stuart Levine gets an hour on the phone with the company's CEO, Richard Daly, to ask questions.

It's a discussion Daly has with all the firm's directors, and one Levine sees a lot of value in.

"I think it helps to A) increase board and meeting effectiveness, and B) eliminates surprises for good, collegial discussions," Levine says. "It's an excellent way of saying, 'Gee whiz, can you tell me about a particular data point, or a piece of strategy?'"

The powwow with the top manager is just one part of Levine's board meeting strategy. He also reviews the board book on his iPad, through the board's secure online portal. He highlights important items and makes notes there. He also has a "little black book" he uses for business. And he'll jot down what he wants to ask Daly about on their phone call, for instance.

Preparing for board meetings starts weeks in advance.

"Inevitably, I want to go back and review," he explains. "There will be additional communications and I'll read books and attachments. It's never 'I'm done for three months,' only four or five meetings a year. That's yesterday, that's not the way it works anymore."

He also keeps up on company happenings and doing committee work year-round. He says he takes advantage of NACD forums and reads industry news.

Luckily most of his board meetings are local so he can bypass any packing or air travel woes.

But that doesn't mean he isn't spending time thinking about his wardrobe. Levine says he dresses for the board meeting with the company culture in mind. Some board rooms may call for a suit, but whatever the dress...

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