Filling board seats for a fast-growing business can be an exciting endeavor. The process itself, done correctly, can be amazingly rewarding and a boon for any company. Working through discovery and creating your company board “wish list” is a great start. But reaching out to each candidate and spending time to get to know the person — via phone and in person — takes time. So does finalizing selections, initiating on-boarding and eventually bringing in a new board member.
As founder and CEO of Aunt Fannie’s, I am currently filling board seats, and find myself in search of candidates who bring a particular skillset, experience and background to the table. And along those lines, our brand gives a definitive nod to the empowered female generation. Women have long been the cornerstone of family and the workplace, which is why it is imperative that our board include the insight, wisdom and perspective of strong, female leaders.
As founder and CEO, I recognize I can be best led by those that have already been where I currently am — successfully growing an early-stage company. I’m smart enough to realize that I can offer only a male perspective. My point of view, insight and life experience is very different from a woman’s. But as we search for the right c-level female board members, we’ve seen that the available number of high-profile, female entrepreneurs and CEOs is much smaller than anticipated — a cultural challenge that continues to roadblock women in business.
Still, because of the clear, growing demand for women in leadership positions, we’ve pursued the search and learned a few things:
1. There are organizations of successful women who have banded together to make their individual successes a collective and formidable force.
The Network of Executive Women (NEW), the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), and the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) are all great examples to look to for fantastic, female leaders doing great things. As with any organization, sifting through the wealth of potential candidates requires its own shepherding.
2. Direct outreach to female leaders, even those we’ve had no prior relationship with or introduction to, is quite open and welcoming.
In fact, our first female board member was just formally on-boarded, and I contacted her completely cold. Monica Nassif, the founder and CEO of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Caldrea, was atop my “wish list.” I had no common relationships with which to be introduced, but hoped she would be open to the opportunity to be part of Aunt Fannie’s. After months of talking with us, meeting us in person and discussing where our brand is headed and the challenges ahead, Nassif accepted a board position to help be a part of leading Aunt Fannie’s into our next stages of growth.
Her leadership took her own two companies to successful exits to SC Johnson. Nassif’s perspective as a founder, CEO, and female will be invaluable for our company.
3. Searching for good female candidates is one of the criteria that should be part of any board-building process, not just our own.
We continue to seek out successful women for remaining board seats. Objectively, studies have shown that attracting experienced female leadership has proven extraordinarily fruitful for both the companies involved, as well as the women who step up to lead them. We hope to be so lucky.
By Mat Franken