Berwick Partners recently held a private networking dinner bringing together industrial business leaders from the Midlands to discuss the relative merits of non-executive positions. After a successful executive career, a portfolio of non-executive roles can be highly attractive and rewarding; however the reality of the challenges and difficulties can be very different from the perception.
Some interesting topics of discussion emerged during a convivial dinner:
It’s competitive - whether you are looking to develop a portfolio career or broaden your current leadership credentials with a non-executive post, competition is fierce. The transition is difficult and the first appointment is often the hardest to obtain.
Networking counts – whilst there is an increased amount of non-executive roles being accessed through visible advertising; personal networking remains the key focal point of any strategy to build a career as an independent director. Head-hunters who act as impartial advisors and advocates of board diversity are playing an increasingly critical role, and these relationships need to be cultivated alongside the business contacts you have gained through the course of your career. The investor community also provide a key gateway to non-executive appointments.
What do you offer - be clear about the attributes you bring and the industries your career has majored in. What can you offer and is it best suited to PLC, Private Equity or family owned organisations? Whilst there has been a trend towards appointing non-executives that offer alternative experiences, it is more likely that you will be of interest if your background aligns well with the industry the company is engaged in, or you have specific skills that can be applied on certain committees.
Be prepared - can you adapt to not being in the hot seat and apply knowledge in an advisory capacity? Do you have the time? Are you happy to take on the legal responsibility? Is the remuneration important? Judging by interest in this event, increased scrutiny is not putting people off wanting to apply the skills learnt over the course of a successful career and putting it to good use providing counsel for others. Money has to be a secondary motivation, the time commitment is likely to be high and you will need to significantly adapt your approach to decision making in order to be successful.
David Thomas is a Principal Consultant within the Manufacturing & Engineering practice at Berwick Partners