The Chase for a Board Seat (Part II)

In my last blog on this topic, I shared that you must understand and commit to your brand (what expertise do you bring to the table as a potential board director) and then your LinkedIn and Executive profiles must reflect that you possess the skills and experiences that support that brand. In this post, I share my thoughts on how your role and place in your current organization impacts your board search.

Where you sit in your current employer’s hierarchy influences your ability for consideration of a board. Being a direct report to the CEO of your current employer is critical to obtaining a board seat for a publicly traded company or a large privately owned organization. Being a member of the C-suite gives the members of the board you are potentially joining the confidence that you see “the big picture” in your organization and the industry. This big picture concept is important as board members don’t dive into the day-to-day operations of the organization, rather they are looking broadly at company performance, potential market shifts and impacts from outside influences. If you have never been a member of the C-suite, it will be challenging for you to step immediately into a board role for a large organization.

The fact that you are not a member of the C-suite today does not mean that you won’t have opportunities to secure a board seat. You will want to tailor your search to companies that are smaller in size and that are looking for a specific area of expertise. For example, if you lead facilities management for your organization, your experience would be attractive to a company that sells its products and services to facility managers. Many of these companies may be smaller in size or privately owned. While the opportunity to serve on the board of a public company may be a bit of a leap, it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility if that company is looking for someone with very specific experience.

So how do you know what size of an organization might be right for you based on your current or most recent position? Look at the revenue of a company. If you are not in the C-suite today then your first board may be with an organization that generates less than $100M in revenue. As you gain board experience you will want to look at opportunities with companies with higher revenue. This approach helps you move up the board ladder with each new board position.

Be reasonable when setting your expectations for a board seat. Even individuals with C-level experience find difficulty in securing board seats with public companies as these positions are in short supply these days. Also, understand that being on the board of a privately held company provides valuable experience to you and often allows you to interact with the management team more. I enjoy working with private companies as much as I do with public companies. It’s not an “either/or” situation.

In my next blog post we will talk about the impact of networking on your board search.