Everyone is talking about getting a board appointment but you need to ‘dare them not to appoint you’
Increasingly people are seeking Non Executive Directorships to complement their executive careers or are considering transitioning from an executive role to a portfolio of board directorships. Whilst many recognise the personal and professional benefits o
Increasingly people are seeking Non Executive Directorships to complement their executive careers or are considering transitioning from an executive role to a portfolio of board directorships.
David Schwarz is an ex-international non-executive recruiter and board career coach who has interviewed thousands of non-executives and helped place hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP board roles in the world. He is the Founder & CEO of Board Direction (Putting People on Boards) - Australia’s leading Non Executive Director consultancy – focused entirely on getting members a board appointment through a wide variety practical services & training courses as well as advertising Australia’s largest & most diverse list of Non Executive vacancies.
David took the time to speak with Business First about: what it takes to gain a board appointment, how to recruit non executive directors and importantly, how you can ‘dare them not to appoint you’. Business First: David, can you give is a run down of Board Direction and the success it has had? David Schwarz: Board Direc- tion launched in 2013 and in just over three years has generated a following of over 35,000 people and has helped thousands develop board careers or transition from an executive to a non-executive . Additionally, on average, each year we advertise the board vacancies of almost 1000 organisations and over 1500 individual NED vacancies – all of which are available to our members.
The reason for our success is largely that we offer a genuinely unique service – one that is entirely
dedicated to helping current and aspiring non-executive directors achieve their board aspirations. It would be accurate to say that no one in the world offers the services we do or can articulate the success we have had in this field. BF: What are the personal and professional benefits of gaining a board appointment? DS:
The benefits of holding a non executive board directorship, in addition to a executive career, have been widely reported. Those who do have, on average, better career opportunities, broader professional connections, are more strategic, earn more and are considered more valuable employees. Further, board roles provide an opportunity to ‘give back’ or pivot your career from ‘executive’ to a portfolio career of paid board directorships – the latter being a very attractive option for many. BF: ‘Dare them not to appoint you’ is your motto – tell us more. DS:
This is a quote I borrowed and modified from a previous Chairman – though his version was a little more strongly worded! Essentially, gaining a board appointment is a highly competitive exercise so people need to be really clear about what it is that they offer a board and why they should be appointed. I think this phrase sums it up nicely. BF: Is it difficult to gain a board appointment? DS:
Gaining a non executive directorship (whether in the Not for Profit, Government or Private Sector) is a highly competitive with both executives and non executives tussling for the same board opportunities. In fact, many say that finding their first board appointment was extremely challenging but even experienced non executives describe finding their subsequent board appointments as just as difficult. That is why the services of Board Direction are so valuable. BF: What is the typical time commitment and remuneration for a non executive director? DS:
Half day meetings and travel time, committee meetings and reading of board papers equate to about one day a month. However, you should also expect to spend another day a month for unexpected board business. However, for many this commitment can be managed out side of office hours. BF: What does a board look for in a successful non executive candidate? DS:
A Chairperson wants to see five (5) things in a successful candidate
Prior governance experience – that is experience working with or on boards, or at the very least senior experience.
Executive skills - skills that the board requires to effectively govern the organisation. 3. Connections - personal or professional networks that can be leveraged by the board for the good of the organisation.
Demonstrable passion – passion for what the organisation does, the industry or for governance.
Cultural fit – someone who can work effectively with the rest of the board.
There are of course others like: governance training, diversity and industry experience but regardless of the scope or scale of an organisation the five elements above are central to a successful appointment. BF: What do you need need to prepare for a board directorship? DS:
A prospective board member must understand the journey ahead, what works and what the pitfalls are – there are marked differences between an executive job hunting exercise and the board appointment process. However, people can prepare themselves by adhering to the following: 1. Manage your expectations Many experienced executives, but aspiring board directors, expect their first board role to be remunerated. Remunerated board roles are highly sort after and often involve competitive recruitment processes. Without demonstrable board experience getting this type of role can be challenging. 2. Know what do you have to offer You should know and practice your ‘elevator pitch’ and be clear on the successes you have had and the experience you bring. Boards want not just your professional experience but access to your networks developed through your existing non executive or executive career so, be clear about what you bring to a board in this regard. 3. Develop your personal connections The appointment process for board or advisory panel roles in many cases is not dissimilar to that of an executive appointment process. Many find that the majority of opportunities are never advertised and are filled by word of mouth or through existing relationships. So, developing ‘personal connections’ is vital and should form the basis of any search process. 4. Use executive recruiters Executive recruiters or ‘headhunters’ are a great source of information and often have access to opportunities that are never advertised. 5. Get a ‘Board Ready’ CV/Resume Many people assume that their executive CV is appropriate for board applications. In most cases it is not. A number key changes need to take place to make it ‘board ready’ including: 1. Clearly addressing the five things a Chair looks for in a new board appointment. 2. Listing non-executive, panel or committee experience and 3. Demonstrating your success in strategic and governance environments. If this all seems like too much work then contact us and we can help you write one. 6. Write a great cover letter Chair’s read cover letters, so any applications for non-executive roles must include one. Well- researched and written cover letters also separate you from your competitors and in a highly competitive application process this is essential. A strong cover letter articulates: Your passion for the role; what you would bring to the role (governance experience, skills and networks) and: Your passion for the company/organisation is a great way to begin any application. BF: How do people get appointed to a board? DS:
There are four (4) ways people gain a board appointment. The vast majority are appointed via a personal connection though not necessarily through people who know them well. Then there are a large proportion who are appointed by: directly approaching organi-
sations themselves; responding to advertisements or; working with recruiters.
BF: How can Board Direction help recruit Non Executive Board Directors?
DS: We offer three ways for companies in the public, private or not for profit sectors to recruit board members. 1. Advertising: A completely free service for organisations to advertise their board or advisory board vacancies. 2. Non Executive Directory: A unique and, again, entirely free service where recruiting organisations can search, view and contact our NED members - think of it as a LinkedIn for Board Directors. 3. Non Executive Recruitment: Another unique service that is disrupting the board recruitment sector which has been static for generations. Here, we leverage Australia’s largest Non Executive Director database to not only generate for you board candidates that you want to appoint but also brand your organisation to over 35,000 NEDs – an amazing byproduct.
BF: How can help individuals develop a board career or gain their first board directorship?
DS: We tailor a broad range of really practical services for both experienced and aspirational board directors. Essentially, we help our members to understand the journey ahead, to look better – both on paper and in an interview, and give them the practical tools and templates they need to ‘dare them not to be appointed’.
Most, if not all, of the services we provide are unique and have been develop by myself from over a decade of putting people on boards. The most common services we provide include: Access to the board vacancies we advertise, Board CV writing, Board Search Master Classes, a Training & Accountability Course and Personal Board Career Coaching.
BF: Board CV writing? Is there really a difference between a Board CV and an Executive CV?
DS: There is! A Board Ready CV is different both in terms of tone, content and structure and can make the difference between a successful application and an unsuccessful one. Regardless of how much weight you think a board CV might carry (and they carry a lot) it is a good investment to get one professionally written at the beginning of your board search.
BF: Are you successful in getting people board appointments?
DS: We are. We couldn’t reference the success we have had with out being good at what we do. We measure our success in a number of ways: the number of board vacancies we advertise (up over 50% in the last 12months); our member satisfaction and how many of our members get onto boards.
For those interested in gaining a non executive board appointment or developing a portfolio career, Board Direction is offering a complimentary ‘Board Appointments’ E-book and a 10% discount on all of its products and services to Business First readers who use the ‘businessfirst’ code at checkout and look forward to having you on board! Just visit: https:// boarddirection.com.au/ for more information.