Finding Boards That Would Welcome You

Finding Boards That Would Welcome You

In my previous column, I suggested that you make four decisions that ultimately netted you a strategic road map for choosing companies that could be good “pursuits” as you look to secure a corporate board seat.

Now it’s time to put your newfound strategy to use to identify companies that are good matches for you and to begin to investigate them further.

Action Breeds Clarity  

Here’s what’s so great about compiling your list at this stage: Action breeds clarity. The moment you start searching out companies for your list, you’ll begin to assimilate information that will give you more and more insight as to where your best opportunities are (and are not). You’ll have some “holy cow!” moments that either send you in the opposite direction or make you want to dig deeper because you begin to see that a particular industry or firm could be a great fit.

This is where we really start to add some meat to the bone.

Compile Your List

Look through the Fortune 1000 and Russell 3000 lists and compile a list of companies that appear to be the best fit for you. Organize the list using the strategic board search target information you identified in the previous chapter.

As you’re compiling your list, be open minded and focus on the quality of the opportunity. Try not to get hung up on the size of the company or the prestige of the brand name. Be realistic. At this point, you’ve probably already got some companies you are interested in.

Vet Your List

Review annual reports, press releases, and analyst reports of each corporation you identified. Check out investor chat rooms and the blogosphere. If it’s a company your colleagues know about, by all means get their input. During this investigative process, consider setting up Google alerts to keep abreast of current marketplace happenings for the firms on which you’re focused. Often the juicy insight is found buried way down in the firm’s search listings.

Eliminate Poor Contenders

Consider those restrictions that would prohibit your service with the firms on your list. For example, ask yourself a range of questions such as these:

Is the travel distance required to get to this firm’s board meetings prohibitive?

Do firms on my list represent a potential conflict of interest given my current business obligations?

Are legal issues looming for this firm?

Does the firm’s product or service make me yawn? (Passion for the firm’s mission is extremely important.)

Does the current board membership seem a little too clubby? (Some clues to this could be that the members live in the same city, or they serve on a lot of the same boards.)

At this point, I’d like you to have a robust list of boards to prioritize and vet. I recommend you choose forty. Feel free to go higher or lower, of course. It’s totally your call.

Prioritize Your List

Now prioritize those firms that are your top picks. Zeroing in on the companies for which your experiences could be most useful will increase your chances of being considered.

Keep asking yourself: Can a strong case be made for why my skills make sense for this board?

Remember that prioritization is a good thing. Relentlessly zero in on the companies for which your experiences could be most useful. Resist the wild goose chase. Stay on the trail.

Once Again, Ask for AIR: Advice, Insight, and Recommendations

Share your list with knowledgeable, trusted supporters to get their perspective and feedback. Consider their advice and if it resonates, use it to add more viable contenders and to remove poor contenders.

“Grid” the Boards That Are Your Top Priority

You know, I just love grids. They help you connect the dots across categories of information. Consider these categories for your grid:

Company name


Meeting location

Board diversity

Years to board retirement

Current board members’ areas of expertise

Directors who know you

The firm’s general counsel

The firm’s accounting firm

Other professional services that interact with the board

Always be open to amending your list. When new choices surface, look at them with an open mind. Most important, be flexible and listen to your instincts. It’s been my experience that when you are clear about your intentions, the universe will align to help you. Contributor

It is a true privilege to be a columnist at Forbes. Forbes is a community of talented people with deep knowledge in their genre.

Working hard is an investment in your future.