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3 tips for entrepreneurs seeking a corporate board appointment

Entrepreneurs are well suited to leverage their experience and expertise into corporate board directorships.

Entrepreneurs have much to offer corporate boards as companies look for innovative ways to expand their businesses. Corporate boards whom we engage are craving both the technology expertise and the diversity that many entrepreneurs can bring to the table. But board opportunities are very limited and quite competitive, so entrepreneurs need to think strategically about how they position themselves for these roles.

Three steps can help entrepreneurs turn their experience into a seat at the corporate board table.

1. Decide what you are passionate about.

“What do you just love? What in your profession connected you to that? Because that’s the perspective you’re going to share in the boardroom,” says Debra von Storch, independent board director at Vari and Canoo.

Passion often reflects the knowledge and experience entrepreneurs can offer a board. For these leaders, that can include a focus on technology, M&A (if you have sold your business), plus strategy, growth, agility or innovation, with the latter being a key boardroom priority.

2. Make sure people know you want to serve on a board.

Share your plans with your network, including fellow board members, C-suite executives, investment bankers, private equity operating partners, corporate lawyers and other influencers who spend time in the boardroom. Your mentors and mentees should be aware, too. “They all need to know that you’re interested in board service because if they don’t think about you, they don’t consider you,” says Daniel Clifford, EY Americas Center for Board Matters Board Network Leader.

“Network, network, network. Relationships are what matters most,” von Storch says.

People also need to know what you can bring to the board. Can you serve on the audit committee? Do you have a background in talent and compensation? Cybersecurity? Be sure to express what differentiates you as you develop your “board bio.”

3. Understand what’s expected.

“One of the things that knocks you out of consideration is not understanding the role of the board,” Clifford says. Check out organizations like the National Association of Corporate Directors, attend education sessions and read governance articles. Be sure to understand how the role of the board differs from that of management and what types of questions you could ask as a board member.

Serving on a corporate board is a great way for entrepreneurs to do more with the knowledge they have gained from building, scaling and maturing a company. But make sure to understand the commitment involved. Don’t join a board if you think it’s not going to be a lot of work.


Corporate board directors need the skills and diverse experiences that entrepreneurs can bring to the table. But to get that board seat, entrepreneurs need to understand and articulate the strengths and experiences they bring to the table, especially technology and innovation skills, and how and where those traits bring value to the boardroom, including helping to address the challenges and opportunities boards face. They also need to do their homework, and make sure the people who make and influence the decision to appoint board members know they are interested in serving on a board.

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