Practically every day I am asked the question – “How Long Does It Really Take to Land a Corporate Board Seat?” Thirteen years of experience representing executive clients in their pursuit of a corporate board seat, my answer is pretty simple – at least two years. In May I posted a piece How to Time Board Candidate Selection. I found it to be helpful guidance when determining the length of time it takes to obtaina corporate board seat. After you capture your first board seat, the second seat comes fairly quickly, followed by a third if you have the bandwith to handle it.
However, the reality of how long the process can actually take and the circuitous routes it can take, you really have to be ready for the marathon and not the sprint. I cannot say that I have seen everything, but one client case in particular comes to mind –
Six years after we had placed one of our executive clients on a middle market, publicly traded corporate board as Audit Committee Chair, he decided it was time to retire. Afterall, the Audit Committee Chair position on a corporate board is the most time consuming and intense of all of the board committee positions. Knowing we had a portfolio of pre-qualified, talented individuals in our portfolio, he called to see if there were any of our clients that would be a good fit. I asked a few questions about his requirements for the successful candidate and to stack rank the order of importance of those requirements. I knew that I had an immediate fit.
Our executive client who we presented was the exact same profile of our executive client that we placed six years prior. One would think it would be a slam dunk, but it wasn’t. I immediately presented our client and he was interviewed shortly after.. Several rounds of meetings and interviews took place over the next month. I thought we were going to set an all-time record of the time it takes to land on a corporate board. But, an incredibly circuitous route was ahead of us.
Suddenly there were several pressing issues the board needed to be addressed. After one issue was addressed, another appeared, it seemed like it wouldn’t end.
Meanwhile, I was keeping our client (the candidate) calm and patient. Interviews and meetings would suddenly start up again and then come to a screeching halt. The current Audit Chair further delayed his retirement. He implored with me to keep our client patient as they worked through what appeared to be never ending issues.
Ten months from the day I introduced our client as a candidate, the skies opened, the issues were all addressed, and they were ready to re-engage in conversations with our client. Twelve months to the day, he was appointed to the board. He still serves on the board, as Audit Chair, today. Although it felt like the process took forever and there were many times when we felt like giving up, it was a real home run!
My message – be patient, stay focused and persevere. If you have the unique value that corporate boards need and want, it will come. It just takes time.