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Sebastian Wilson
Sebastian Wilson

Why Seek A Board Seat NEW!



I pointed out that there are four roles a financial investor can take in your company: a board member, a board observer (a non-voting attendee of board meetings), an advisory board member, or no active role. I explained that as a non-public company there was no legal requirement for any investor to have a board seat. Period. That said, professional venture capital firms that lead a Series investment round usually make their investment contingent on a board seat. And it sounded like if successful, their startup was going to need additional funding past an angel round to scale.




Why seek a board seat


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Seven candidates are vying to fill the Memphis-Shelby County School Board vacancy created on Feb. 11, when Shante Avant resigned her District 6 seat that covers South Memphis, Riverside, Westwood, and Whitehaven. Avant announced that she now lives in Cordova, outside the district, and is currently campaigning to represent that area on the County Commission. The appointment to fill the remainder of the term will be a short one as voters will get to select a new school board member during the Aug. 4 general election.


Board members Miska Clay Bibbs and Althea Greene are also running for County Commission seats, representing their respective home districts, and remain on the board at this time. County commissioners will interview the seven applicants for the District 6 seat during their March 9 meeting and vote at their March 21 meeting. The seven applicants are:


Four persons, including Paul Iacoangeli, a former chairman of the Board of Monroe County Road Commissioners, have applied to fill a vacancy on the road board created by the recent resignation of Charles Londo, vice chairman of the body.


Brant told county commissioners Tuesday night the seat would be filled similar to the process followed in 2020 when Dan Minton and Bill Kipf were named to the road board after being interviewed by the nine commissioners.


Brant recommended the commissioners interview the four candidates at their Feb. 15 meeting and make a decision then based on who scores the highest from the interviews. The other candidates will be kept outside the board room during the interviews, he said.


Other candidates seeking the post include Jim Jacobs, a local architect; Jason Ruhlig, a partner in Ruhlig Farms in Carleton, and Jeff Hensley, a former Monroe City Council member and an employee of DTE Energy for 19 years.


Furthermore, corporations often seek board members with specific skill-sets, such as financial or legal expertise. Board members must weigh in on critical topics like succession planning, crisis management and acquisitions, so the requirements for these positions are significant.


Nonprofit Boards Landing a nonprofit board position is far less competitive, except at large, high-profile organizations like Save the Children or the American Red Cross. Nonprofits also look for board members with a wide range of skills. But they want people who can contribute expertise in running nonprofit programs, managing community relations and fundraising as well.


To get a feel for what companies look for, read their annual proxy statement (for publicly traded firms) or research the backgrounds of existing board members using sites like LinkedIn. Another smart way to learn about board membership is to sign up for BoardProspects.com, an online community and recruitment platform for existing and prospective board members.


Let your professional network know of your interest in a board position and ask them for referrals to other high-level executives and board members. For-profit board searches are often conducted by executive search firms, like Spencer Stuart and RSR Partners, so use your connections to get referred in.


2. Will my skills, experience or expertise help increase the impact of the organization and further its mission? The best board roles are ones that give you the opportunity to be engaged in an impactful and meaningful way.


3. Can I commit the time required to fulfill my legal and fiduciary responsibilities as a board member? It is vital that as a board member, you understand what is expected of board members before you sign on.


Zack O'Malley Greenburg is senior editor of media & entertainment at Forbes and author of four books, including A-List Angels: How a Band of Actors, Artists and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley and the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. Zack's work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, McSweeney's and the Library of Congress. In over a decade at Forbes, he has investigated topics from Wu-Tang Clan's secret album in Morocco to the return of tourism in post-conflict Sierra Leone to the earning power of Hip-Hop's Cash Kings, writing cover stories on subjects ranging from Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher to Katy Perry. A former child actor, Zack played the title role in the film Lorenzo's Oil (1992) and arrived at Forbes in 2007 after graduating from Yale with an American Studies degree. For more, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and via www.zogreenburg.com. Got a tip on a music, media & entertainment story? Send it over via SecureDrop. Instructions here: www.forbes.com/tips


Les Nichols has two children in the school system. He taught arts and English in Brazil and in Gainesville Florida, and served in administrative positions there. He currently works at the Fairbanks Nissan dealership. He says the school board could be a bridge between the district and the community.


Another option is to indicate your interest in serving on a nonprofit board on LinkedIn in the Volunteer Experience & Causes section of your profile, which will make it easier for organizations seeking board members to find you!


There is power in knowing what you want and going after it. However, it is important to always learn as much as you can about the organizations before you express your interest in serving on the board.


In addition, be aware of any potential conflicts of interest between your personal and professional concerns and the interests of the organization. There will always be some conflicts, but if your interests and the interests of the organization are likely to conflict on a frequent basis, then serving on the board will not be a good fit for you or for the organization. For more information about conflicts of interest, check out our free FAQ for Legal and Compliance Issues.


The Bismarck Board of Park Commissioners (Board) is seeking applications for an open seat due to the resignation of Commissioner Wayne Munson effective Dec. 31. The individual selected by the Board following an application and interview process will serve as commissioner until June 2024.


As a woman, it can be challenging to get a board seat. Although California has passed a law that requires women to be on boards, this is not the case in all states. Female founders can also encounter difficulties raising money to scale their companies. How can we, as women, effect change?


I was recently introduced to the Fourth Floor. The Fourth Floor brings vetted female founders and professionals together so we can increase the number of women on boards, be more competitive fundraisers, and create wealth for female investors and entrepreneurs.


Andreessen Horowitz, for one, has not sought out board seats at some token-issuing startups, partially due to the legal risks involved, a person familiar with the matter told The Information. The venture firm does not sit on the board of Uniswap Labs, for example, which raised a $11 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz in 2020.


In the other district that will be on the ballot, board member Dimitri Elbling chose not to seek re-election and only homemaker Amelia Bakshi and Wendy Carrera, a journalism professor at Rio Hondo College, are running for District 5.


Ask those who already have a seat at the table, and they offer a combination of strategies that both burnished their résumés and got them noticed by board recruiters. Among them: volunteer work, director-training programs, public speaking and networking. But they also say they had to sacrifice time, and in some cases money, to achieve their goals.


One way for a woman to increase her chances of landing a seat on a corporate board is to serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations, start-up companies, industry or professional associations or community groups, says Erin Ennis, a vice president of finance in Tallahassee, Fla., for real-estate developer St. Joe Co. and a director on the board of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.


Ms. Moddelmog says the three programs combined took up seven days and cost about $7,000, not including travel expenses, such as airfare, hotel, meals and local transportation. Since completing them, she has taken two corporate board positions, at HyperActive Technologies Inc. and Fiesta Brands Inc.


Many women say raising their profile in their industry helped them win invitations to join boards. Carole Brookins, co-founder of Public Capital Advisors LLC, a New York-based provider of financial advice to national and municipal governments, says she gave a speech at a fertilizer-industry conference in the early 1990s when she was CEO and chairwoman of World Perspectives Inc., a Washington-based consulting firm specializing in agricultural commodities. Afterward, the president of Terra Industries Inc., a fertilizer maker in Sioux City, Iowa, introduced himself, and a networking relationship ensued. When a board seat opened at his firm a year later, Ms. Brookins, who is now 63, was invited to interview for it. She landed the directorship, her first of three corporate boardroom posts.


This article was co-published by Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI as part of a collaboration ahead of the 2022 school board elections. Join Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI to hear from candidates for IPS school board at a forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Indianapolis Public Library, Central Branch. RSVP and submit questions here.


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