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October 15, 2012

A perk of serving as a corporate board member is the ability to engage in business development with fellow directors, and maybe even the organization itself.  Many believe this is reserved only for non-profit boards, but it actually happens at all levels of board service — non-profit, private and public. Some frown on business development in the boardroom as it could lead to conflicts of interest or maybe even unwanted attention from the press.  I see nothing wrong with business development in the boardroom — as long as it is done correctly, and in a manner which does not interfere with one’s fiduciary duties to the organization.

That being said, board members should definitely not hand out business cards at his/her first board meeting.  To board members who take their service seriously, there is no bigger turn-off.  It tells the other board members that you are there for only one thing: business. Sure, you might join a board with the intent of gaining business, however, it is not recommended to go about it in such an overt manner.

From a corporate governance best practices perspective, a chair of the board should establish the business development parameters through a comprehensive board orientation program far ahead of when a new board member joins. The orientation should include a review of the organization’s conflict of interest policy and at least address business between a board member and the organization, as well as business between board members. Even if the boardroom decides it is not appropriate, the conflict of interest policy should at least address the do’s and don’ts of business development in the boardroom.

It is natural for a new board member to begin networking with other board members. If the board member demonstrates admirable skill-sets through exemplary boardroom service: attending board meetings, showing up prepared and being an active participant, their value will be recognized and business opportunities will present themselves.

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