Boards have existed since the 17th or 18th century in different forms and with evolving functions. They’ve evolved very slowly and been very reactive to change, relative to other corporate functions. In this podcast Jaime Grego-Mayor: Managing Partner, Advisory Board Architects talks to Mark Hamill about how to become a board member and add value to a board.
Summary text of Global Conference Call
Jaime Grego-Mayor: Managing Partner, Advisory Board Architects
Let me give you a very brief bit of history of boards. Boards have existed since the 17th or 18th century in different forms and with evolving functions. They’ve evolved very slowly and been very reactive to change, relative to other corporate functions.
Through an ongoing cycle of corporate scandal à new rules à corporate scandal, BoDs have been saddled with new and ever more complex requirements. This has been to the detriment of other key functions of the board, like strategy formation and company growth.
This has affected mostly publicly listed companies, while basically ignoring the needs of the vast majority of companies, the unlisted. It has, however, affected how those companies consider governance and boards by way of so called best practices. Governance has become, for many, a necessary evil of no real benefit.
Boards are the apex of companies, with a non-executive role that can accurately be described as governance, but there is a great difference between complying with governance rules to the letter and having true good governance. Having a board that is solely centered on control is grievously underutilizing its capacity. At ABA, we know companies can and should improve board performance to use 100% of their capacity and create high and quantifiable strategic impact.
This is especially true in unlisted companies where ownership and decision making is concentrated. These companies do not need complex shareholder representation structures, but they do need a group that will provide a sounding board, support and subject matter expertise to the CEO. This can be done through the conventional Fiduciary Board of Directors structure, but can also frequently be done as effectively through non-fiduciary Advisory Board structures.
It’s done by starting with the end in mind. A company needs to think of 3 things when considering its board: WHY, WHO and HOW.
First: WHY they want a board. What are the mid and long- term goals that a group of subject matter experts should help them to achieve.
Then, and only then, consider WHO to put on the board: people who will drive the company towards the WHY.
Finally, HOW to run an effective board process to maximize impact. What structure, meeting cadence, and the process before, during and after meetings.
From that background, let me pull out strands that are important as you consider being a board member. Again, start with the end in mind: WHY, WHO and HOW.
WHY do you want to be a board member? It should be to have a high impact on the company and yourself as well, through the learning this experience provides.
WHO should you want to be a board member for:
First, change your concept of the post from board member to board leader. Clubs have members. Boards need leaders.
Be a board leader where your experience and expertise is directly applicable and impactful to helping the company go from where it is to where it wants to be. Where you can be the right WHO to their WHY.
Be a board leader where you will not be alone as an independent thinker. WHO will sit around the table with you? Will it be enriching to you to sit with them?
Be a board leader where you see there is a good board process, a good HOW:
Where the role of the board is not only control, but also business strategy and growth; where the board is well run; where each meeting has a clearly set out agenda; where good documentation is sent out in time; where board, and board leaders are evaluated. And most importantly, where executives are prepared to listen and learn from their board.
Important steps to take to get the first board seat:
First, get trained. Governance organizations around the world offer this kind of training (more focused on traditional governance). ABA offers training as well, focused more around strategic impact and effective planning for getting that board seat.
Second, adapt your resume for board positions. Consider and highlight those areas of expertise that make you more unique. Go beyond strategic thinking and generalist knowledge to subject matter expertise.
Third, get involved. This can be done through mentorship programs for smaller companies or sitting on the board of an interesting non-profit.
Fourth, get networked. Talk to people like ABA, SF and other headhunters, PE funds that invest in company types where you could have impact, auditors and lawyers (who often act as board secretaries).
Fifth, review your contacts and talk to people who are directors, advisors or CEOs that you respect and who respect you, about the idea of having a board of directors or board of advisors – or a better one than they do now – and how this can make their company perform significantly better.
Sixth, don’t take the first board seat that’s offered without making sure you will be able to truly impact the board and the company as a board leader. Having that impact will be rewarding and make you feel engaged. At ABA we’ve found that the most important indicator of board effectiveness is board leader engagement.
Finally: Your most valuable and irreplaceable asset is your time, use it wisely.
Get involved with boards where you will enrich others and be enriched. Get involved with boards where you feel engaged. Get involved with boards where you will create true IMPACT.
SpenglerFox are pleased to announce a strategic alliance with Cowley Brown Recruitment which will see both companies look to grow and expand their retained executive search business in Ireland. Cowley Brown is based in Dublin with a mix of retained and contingency search business mainly in the Irish healthcare sector and as a consequence, also in the UK and Middle East. SpenglerFox is a leading retained global Search & HR services firm, with Irish heritage, across multiple territories serving both the mature and emerging markets. This new alliance will target the retained executive search business in the Irish market with an initial focus on C-suite roles in Life Sciences and related sectors, but will also create an opportunity for Cowley Brown to engage with SpenglerFox jointly on assignments in other countries around the globe. Through this strategic alliance both companies will bring considerable added value to their respective domestic and international clients, Cowley Brown having successfully built up a considerable local footprint in Ireland and SpenglerFox having a strong international brand as a retained executive search expert, with a wide international reach for sourcing the best talent for their clients. Jens Friedrich, CEO of SpenglerFox, added ‘’Following our Management Buy Out in 2017 we have been focussing on increasing our specialised expert industry knowledge as well as expanding our geographical reach and Ireland has been a priority market on our radar. We are delighted to form this new alliance with Ken and his Team at Cowley Brown. Such an alliance will give SpenglerFox the executive search exposure in the ever improving Irish market, while also continuing to strengthen our Life Sciences practice and serving our international clients who are expanding into the Irish economy.‘’ Ken Cowley, Director of Cowley Brown, is very excited about this new alliance for his firm, and says; ‘’We feel this was the perfect time for us to strike this arrangement with the team at SpenglerFox due to the continuing growth in the Irish economy and our own growth over the last 12-18 months. We have seen an ever increasing demand from our clients for assistance in helping to fill key C-Suite roles, so we are very much looking forward to the prospect of tapping in to the resourcing strength, market-specific expertise, and the global reach that our new business colleagues at SpenglerFox will provide. Also, we feel that the values of our two organisations are highly aligned, with a massive level of enthusiasm for finding top talent and for putting our clients at the centre of everything we do.’’ Both companies feel that there continues to be significant opportunities in the Irish market, as both FDI and indigenous Irish companies continue to expand. The combined set of strengths of both teams, as well as the level and quality of existing contacts and candidate-reach, means that ambitious targets are being set by the new strategic alliance, and both companies are very much looking forward to an exciting future, collaborating on multiple assignments together, both in Ireland and internationally in the best interest of our respective clients.
The Budapest Business Journal – Book of Lists 2018/2019 is an industry guide unique to Hungary and provides company data of 2,500 of the largest companies in more than 70 fields. We are pleased to share that SpenglerFox ranked 3rd amongst Executive Search firms in Hungary. I am delighted once again by this recognition of our services to the Hungarian market. Since our Budapest office first opened in 2005 we have been continuously identifying the very best senior executive talent for our clients businesses. As we now enter the second year of our MBO in 2017 our team in Budapest is continuing to grow and our Research team strengthened to further support our client and candidates as they evolve. Jens Friedrich, CEO
Delighted to gather our entire company in Frankfurt one year post our MBO for two packed days of relationship building, learning and fun. Since our MBO in July 2017 this was the first All Staff event, there was an incredible atmosphere and energy, we certainly needed the energy to help us through the networking, workshops and of course the party! No event is ever complete without an award ceremony, so we presented our staff with more than 10 years tenure travel vouchers, we’re really proud that 50% of our Foxes have been with SpenglerFox between 5 and 14 years! Damien Stork, Chris Beedle and Dan Godsall from Chamonix Hard Cross joined us on day two to take us through their Personal Eco System program. Showing and reminding us why our environment, sleep, exercise and nutrition can help our mental performance, and find more time for that work/life balance. It was great to get the family together once again, so many friendships strengthened, already looking forward to the next. Jens Friedrich, CEO.