Why executives seek service on family business boards

Kristi Daeda
Kristi Daeda

As leader of FBCG’s Governance Practice, I often interview executives pursuing board service. Their stories are always interesting – full of career twists and turns, successes and lessons learned.

One thing I always ask is what their goals are for future board service. What kind of company excites them? What’s the contribution that they hope to make? The answers to these questions are telling – both in their perceptions of board service in general and their ideas of what it means to be a director for a family business board.

These successful men and women come from a mix of backgrounds. Most have worked in family firms within their careers, either as a family member or a trusted non-family leader. Many have served on other boards in the past, including public company boards. Regardless of their experience, many of the themes that move them to serve on a family business board are the same:

“I’m excited by a business that has a strong focus on values and vision.”

“I want to serve on a board where I can share my expertise and make an impact.”

“I like a board that can take a long-term strategic view.”

“I want to keep learning.”

“I want to work as a team with others for a common cause.”

They often see a family business board as a better route to these aims than public boards. They expect – and find – that family business boards will allow them to build rewarding working relationships with family ownership, have a long-term effect on the business, and derive more satisfaction from seeing the business impacts of their work than other board settings.

This is good news for all involved. Family business directors get an environment where they’re accepted as strategic contributors and they see the fruits of their labors on the bottom line. The businesses they serve get access to expertise from engaged, passionate contributors dedicated to the larger vision. In a well-functioning governance system, the outcome can be a meaningful and valuable partnership.

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