How to Get a Seat on a Board: Advice from an Entrepreneur and Investor

Boardroom with board seats
March 28, 2023
Resources
Written by
Kenneth Grunov
General Partner

If you are an experienced entrepreneur or had a long business career, and are wondering how to get a seat on a board, here are a few pieces of advice. Joining a board of directors can be a great way to use your skills and expertise to make a meaningful impact on a company. In addition, it can be a rewarding way to give back to the community and help young entrepreneurs and teams succeed.

If you haven’t been on a board before, you might be unsure how to approach it. Here are a couple of tips to consider in order to increase your chances of landing a seat.

1. Network, Network, Network

You should be networking…ok, we all know that. Some love it, some hate it. Whichever is the case for you, if you want to land a seat on a board, you should get out there and mingle.

Attend events, conferences, and industry gatherings to meet people who work in the field you are interested in. It’s not just about who you know but also who knows you. So don’t just hang out at the bar or be a wallflower – get out there and talk to people. Through networking, you will not only get to meet people who may be able to help you get a seat on a board, but this will also help you stay up-to-date on industry developments and trends.

Another approach you could go for is asking your current network for introductions and meeting the key people directly. Getting selected for a board position often comes down to building strong relationships with the people who make the decisions. Work on building relationships with board members and executives, and stay in touch with them over time. Follow up after meetings, send articles or resources that may be of interest, and attend events or activities they attend too. Building strong relationships takes time and effort but often pays off in the long run.

Be willing to give before you receive, and demonstrate your value and commitment to the organization. Show that you are invested in the company’s success and have a genuine interest in contributing to its growth.

2. Show your Value

In order for a company to consider you for a board seat, they need to see the value you can bring. Give them a reason to take notice of you.

Once you’ve made some connections, the next step will be to demonstrate your value. Ask yourself, what can you bring to the table? Do you have skills in sales, marketing, economics, sustainability, or something else? Figure out where your strengths lie and use them to your advantage. You should, of course, research the company you’re interested in beforehand to get a sense of its current challenges and opportunities and think about how you could help the business. Then go ahead and show senior management how your unique strengths and experiences can help their organization.  

Offer to help in any way you can, whether that means providing feedback on a project, introducing to potential partners, or giving your time and expertise. Be willing to give before you receive, and demonstrate your value and commitment to the organization. Show that you are invested in the company’s success and have a genuine interest in contributing to its growth. These gestures go a long way toward getting you picked for a board seat.

3. Ask for it Directly

Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you – ask for it! If you are interested in a seat on the board, you need to let them know.

Speak to your network and tell them you would be interested in joining a company’s board. And if there’s a particular company to which you believe you can contribute to its success, express your interest in joining its board and ask for a meeting to discuss it. Let the management team know what you can do for them and why you’re the right person for the job. Remember, honesty is the best policy – be confident in your abilities but don’t oversell yourself or make promises you can’t keep.

You should also know that getting selected for a board position can take time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. Be prepared to be flexible and open to different types of board positions, as some may offer more opportunities for growth and development than others. If you get rejected, don’t take it personally – dust yourself off and move on to the next opportunity.

4. Know your Role

When you get selected for a board position, it’s important to align on your role and responsibilities to make the most of the opportunity and contribute in a meaningful way.

Ask for a contract that will include a clear alignment of what is expected of you and what you need to deliver. Boards have different structures and requirements, so take the time to learn about the company’s governance framework and any specific regulations or policies you need to follow. Having your agreement on paper will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that you and the company are on the same page.

Finally, be realistic in terms of how you expect to get rewarded. While it’s important to be fairly compensated for your time and expertise, it’s also important to remember that serving on a board is not a place to earn a high income. It’s a role to take on to make an impact and give back to people and the community.

Having a diverse board, where different voices are represented and heard, can bring new valuable perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better decision-making and, ultimately, the greater success of the business.

5. Work as a Team

Once you’ve landed a seat on the board, now you’ll have to work as a team. A board of directors is a team, and you need to play well with others to help the company succeed.

By fostering positive relationships and effective communication with fellow board members, you’ll help maximize your team’s potential. Work collaboratively between meetings to achieve the board’s goals and obligations. Bring your unique skills and perspectives to the table, but also listen to and learn from your fellow board members.

Keep in mind – just because you’re on the board doesn’t mean you know everything. Your role is to know where and when to contribute and ask the right questions. Recognize when your peers may be better at solving challenges in certain areas. Remember to be a guide and mentor, not a judge.

6. Know When to Step Down

Board work is not a lifetime job. Serving on a board can be a fulfilling and impactful experience, but it’s important to know when it’s time to move on.

Once you feel that you have accomplished your mission and helped the company as much as you can, it might be the time to step aside and let new talent and fresh perspectives come in. This is not always an easy decision to make, but it’s essential to recognize that holding on to your position can hinder the company’s growth and progress.

When it’s time, you can help identify potential candidates to invite to get a seat on the board and work with the company to ensure a smooth transition. After all, you want the company to continue to thrive even after you’ve left the boardroom.

Bonus point: Embrace Diversity

Last but not least…diversity is not just a buzzword used in a newspaper headline or mentioned in an annual report – it’s crucial to foster it in order to make a board successful. Having the board consist of “old white men” will not help the company progress in the long run. When selecting future board members, boards and organizations must consider diversity in terms of gender, age, skills, and professional backgrounds.

Having a diverse board, where different voices are represented and heard, can bring new valuable perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better decision-making and, ultimately, the greater success of the business.

Read also

Why Picking the Right Investor Matters More Than you Think

About
Kenneth Grunov
Since co-founding Scale Capital in 2012, Kenneth has been working on investment activities next to assisting portfolio companies and administrating fund operations. On top of that, Kenneth has long-reaching experience working at boards of directors. He joined his first board 25 years ago and has been supporting several companies ever since.
Scale Capital
Scale Capital is an early-stage venture fund investing in digitization and disruptive technologies within B2B. It primarily focuses on investing in companies in the Nordic region with the potential and ambition to win in the US market. Scale is headquartered in Copenhagen with a presence in the Nordic countries and Silicon Valley.