Boards want you! Why boards want marketers and how to get yourself on one

Thankfully for all of us, the relationship between marketers and boards is growing.

An increasing number of New Zealand companies are discovering the value of adding experienced marketers to their boards as a new and important way to govern their assets and provide constructive support to their management teams.

Marketers bring a wealth of skills and diversity of thinking that changes a traditional board dynamic. Aside from the obvious contribution they can make to growth and profitability, most evident is the marketer’s ability to contribute to:

  • Business strategy for the development of long-term sustainable value
  • Organisational strategy and culture
  • A razor-sharp focus on customer relationships
  • Measurement of business performance
  • Data governance
  • Communication as a critical part of an effective organisation and specifically, health and safety strategies
  • And the biggest of all in the area of innovation, its deployment and impact on industry and the organisation’s future

More often than not, boards (openly) struggle with the balance of spending time on performance reporting of the past, as opposed to their ability to contribute to future improvement – actively working on and spending time to help the organisation be better. Because there’s been a predominance of accountants and lawyers on boards, it’s easy to understand how they ended up in this pickle.

But without a doubt, the relentless focus on customer and brand value a marketer brings as an operating system really does help shift the gear for the board to keep its eyes and mind keenly working towards an improved future state.

Fancy being a board director?

Board work is fundamentally, extremely rewarding. Working within a good board team is an enormously collaborative, exciting, fun and fulfilling experience. It is an unrelenting learning opportunity that provides exposure to rich and diverse perspectives.

If you think it’s for you, consider the following questions:

  • Do I like working in a diverse team? Do I have a contribution to make? (Diversity of thinking is important to boards)
  • Do I like structure and process? (There’s a bit of this in board work)
  • Am I able to spend 20-30 hours a month on reading, being involved in meetings, and learning? (And a genuine open mindedness and curiosity to find out all sorts of new and wonderful areas of an organisation’s operation?)
  • Have I got a strong sense of personal integrity? A strong work ethic?
  • Do I have a desire to serve? (Boards are all about providing constructive support)
  • Do I have a high level of competence in my field that can align to an organisation’s needs?

Sadly, board work is not a fast way to get rich in New Zealand but it is most definitely a way to extend our corporate and professional lives, to serve our communities, to continuously learn, to broaden our view of the world and extend our contribution to all areas of our lives.

Ways to get started

The Institute of Directors is a great place to start. The Institute offers a number of courses that explain the fundamentals of governance and directorship for both aspiring and new directors.

Interestingly, many organisations are looking at appointing intern directors. At its simplest, an intern (or associate) director is an observer of the board who joins every meeting and receives all board communication. They are able to learn first-hand, the role of governance and the dynamics of sitting on a board. While they don’t have voting rights, form part of a board quorum or governance obligations, they are included in all discussions, reading and called upon for comment as an appointed director would be. The aim is to develop directors for the future.

The Institute of Directors offers a programme (called Future Directors), as do many progressive organisations in New Zealand.

For many interested in governance, it offers a very practical way to see what it’s about, and to get experience. And for boards, it is an excellent way to bring young, fresh perspective to the boardroom, to tap into new skillsets, offer diversity and help develop the ambition and talent of those in the industry.

Aside from this, it’s worth:

  • Preparing a tailored board CV – that talks to your attributes and experiences in governance.
  • Talking to those who are currently board directors on how they got started and what advice they may have on ways to begin.
  • Considering not-for-pro t and unpaid board appointments as a way of building your governance experience.
  • Updating your Linkedin profile so you can be found by prospective recruiters.
  • Checking company annual reports that you are interested in and considering how they value and account for brand within their vision, values and financial reporting,

Sites to visit

This article was originally published in NZ Marketing.

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