Landing the board seat you want can be very competitive, even for the most seasoned corporate director. For the dedicated and experienced non-profit director, finding your way onto a board with influence on a cause that you care about can involve an opaque appointment process, especially if it’s controlled by government. And high-profile charities have a limited number of board seats that open up on an annual basis.
So, what can you do to set yourself apart from other well-qualified candidates?
Outside of the ‘who you know’ networking factor, having a board value proposition that highlights the unique combination of skills and experience that only you can bring is a powerful differentiator.
While good old-fashioned networking may get your foot in the door, it’s the clarity, authenticity, and persuasiveness of your board value proposition (BVP) that has the potential to get you to the interview stage and beyond.
I remember years ago in the early 90’s when the broadcasting company I worked for was being broken up to be sold to a variety of other corporations. That was the start of major industry consolidation that pretty much wiped out my management level across the entire sector.
When it came time to say our good-byes, the General Sales Manager said to me, “Don’t forget your value.” Of course, I thanked him, but I wondered what he was talking about. Was it about salary? Or the quality of my work? I really wasn’t sure. But I was sure that I needed to land another job quickly to pay the mortgage! Fortunately, it all worked out. And from where I sit now, I realize what he was talking about.
My point is the value you bring to a board is not the same as the value you bring to an operational or management position. Your BVP needs to capture the unique offering you will bring to a board.
“As an advisor, you work to hone your ‘significant influence’ skills while as an executive you focus on your ‘this is how you do it’ skills which is less desirable for a board member” - John Ruffalo, Board member at various organizations, founder at OMERS Ventures and Co-Founder of the Council of Canadian Innovators
Let’s use the rest of this blog to focus on your unique board value proposition. By the way, if you think BVP is too much of a buzzword, just think of it as your ‘elevator speech’.
Deborah Rosati is founder and CEO of Women Get On Board Inc., a member based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. Deborah has some excellent insights on creating your BVP, as she has successfully lived the experience and now coaches others to achieve real success in this area.
“Creating your board value proposition is one of the most critical things you will do in your board journey. Well-functioning boards are made up of members with a diversity of skills and experience, culture, gender, ethnicity and age.
“Your board value proposition is what you bring to the board table and how you differentiate yourself from other board members and other board candidates.
“You should be able to articulate your board value proposition in a 30-second-or-less elevator pitch. And you should include specific expertise, skillsets the board currently lacks, and how you are a leader in your industry (or a synergistic industry).”
Here is Deborah Rosati’s own elevator pitch that she has honed over the years:
“I have entrepreneurial, financial and governance expertise with high growth and transformational companies in technology, retail, consumer and cannabis sectors.”
With this BVP, board recruiters would be intrigued to find out more detail. From her board CV they would also learn Deborah is a business owner, FCPA, FCA, certified corporate director (ICD.D), and has served on numerous boards in her preferred sectors.
One caution. Your story is your own story. It has its own unique value. You can learn from the structure and content of someone else’s BVP but avoid comparing your perceived worth to theirs. I can guarantee the uniqueness of your personal BVP is important to the right board.
When you are asked why you want to be on a board, or how you could contribute to a board’s success, it’s helpful to have your board ‘elevator speech’ down pat. That’s what I mean by your board value proposition. It’s about the added value you would bring to the board, your unique offering. There is only one you. Let them hear about it.
And when your BVP is brief, concise and specific, it demonstrates your ability to make a point effectively and persuasively – a valuable skill for future board meetings.
If your BVP is effective at the front end of your board CV you may be contacted by the board’s governance/nominating committee, or possibly an executive search firm, to discuss further.
Returning to the example of Deborah Rosati, we can assume the rest of her board CV and cover letter would provide greater detail on her board background. These documents would be designed for consideration for a board role, not a management position. There’s a considerable difference in focus.
Today’s Savvy Director blog will not be honing in on the topic of board CVs, but I’ve included some resource links below to connect you with additional information.
Let’s take a look at one more example. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is the founder and Chairman of a Silicon Valley company called theBoardlist, a curated talent marketplace where business leaders come together to nominate and discover board-nominated female executives.
Sukhinder’s day job is SVP & President of StubHub, an eBay owned company. Here is her unique value proposition for a board role:
“Sukhinder Singh Cassidy has founded and successfully built and scaled technology companies at the intersection of media and commerce throughout her career.”
If you were looking to recruit a technology executive to your board, Sukhinder’s BVP might tweak your interest and cause you to read the rest of her board CV and consider next steps.
How does this help you? There is some good information on theBoardlist site to define your own BVP. Take a look at this Venn diagram to help guide you in developing your unique BVP.
theBoardlist site goes on to say, “Finding your board opportunity is all about fit. The ideal opportunity is where your skills and professional passion match up with a company’s needs. This will ensure that your contributions are valued and you are able to make an impact. You will want to build your board CV with your unique value proposition in mind.”
Leave a comment below to get in on the conversation.
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online hub with hundreds of guideline questions and resources to help prepare for your next board meeting.
Share Your Insight: What’s in your board offer?