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On your way to the board room? 10 steps to get you there

Kay Koplovitz is the Chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses in technology, media and life sciences. Here is what she has to say to people who are board bound:

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1. Why Do You Want To Be On A Corporate Board?

The first question to ask is why does someone want to be on a board? Most people say they want to expand their credentials, some are transitioning out of executive roles and would like to join boards, and some want to learn more about other business sectors. These are all valid reasons, but corporations want to know what you can do for them. So organise your resume to reflect experiences that boards might find valuable such as financial literacy, international experience, technology know how, regulatory expertise, and social media. These are experiences that are often at the top of board searches. Learn how to position yourself for board readiness.

2. Consider What You Can Offer The Board, Not What The Board Can Offer You

Beyond organising your resume and thinking about the specific skills you bring to the table, familiarise yourself with the industries in which you have an interest and study their board compositions. Board selections in the last decade have moved from having a team of high profile members to members with specific work experience and expertise.

3. Learn the Ropes

Prepare for the role by taking an On-Boarding class for first time board members. There are many weekend and 5-day courses offered by universities and organisations specialising in board preparedness. 

4. Online Discussion Groups

Prepare yourself by taking advantage of many online discussion groups. You don’t need to weigh in on every discussion, but by reading the exchange among members of these discussion groups, you can learn the pros and cons of such subjects. For example, should the chairman and CEO roles be split? What are companies doing about cyber security in the age of breaches? 

5. Board Governance

Learn about board governance responsibilities. Boards have very specific  responsibilities and while they may vary somewhat from industry to industry and company to company, you can learn a lot about them by reviewing the requirements as posted by the world's leading stock exchanges.

6. Committee Responsibilities

Learn the responsibilities for each committee. Committees are the working units of corporate boards, where much of the workload  lies and recommendations to the board for actions taken are derived. Each publicly listed company must have an audit, governance and compensation committee and often corporations have more depending on need. 

7. Annual Reports

Read the annual reports of companies that interest you to educate yourself about the opportunities and challenges of the industries. This exercise will give you a much better idea of what corporate boards are responsible for and whether you believe serving on a board is what is most suitable for you at this time. 

8. Become Visible

Begin to work your network of contacts, both online and in-person and let your colleagues  know you are interested in serving on a board. 

9. Attend Events For Board Members

Source events you can attend to socialise with people serving on boards, with a particular eye on people who are governance committee chairs or members. Present yourself as a viable candidate by discussing board issues at hand and display current knowledge of governance. 

10. The First Interview

Once you have been granted an interview, be prepared. Read the annual report of the  company, come prepared to ask questions and speak clearly about your own experiences that  would qualify you for the board. Research and review the other board members. Do your own due diligence. Your commitment to serve comes with responsibilities. 

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