David Schwarz: reflecting on almost 20 years of putting people on boards

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As I approach 20 years of experience in helping people gain board appointments it also offers an opportunity for me to reflect on the changes I have seen over that time and provide some thoughts on some of the key elements.

By way of an introduction, I began my career as a Headhunter / Executive Search Consultant almost 20 years ago in London. The first assignment I was involved with, was the appointment of the CEO of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), and later the board appointments of the entire ODA board. My second assignment was for the entire board and Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. These roles were arguably the most significant in the country at that point in time and saw over 2,000 board applications received and took over a year to deliver.

During the remainder of my board recruitment career, I must have reviewed well over 10,000 board and executive CVs, took briefs from hundreds of Chairs on what they wanted in successful candidates and recruited hundreds of individuals into some of the most significant board appointments in the world.

I recognised my skills were best utilised working directly with individuals to develop a board career 

I left board recruitment to begin working at the Australian Institute of Company Directors running their Directorship Opportunities (their job listing) service. During that time, I recognised that the experience I had developed could be utilised on behalf of individuals (rather than recruiting clients) to help them gain board appointments… and so Board Direction was born with the explicit intention of helping put people on boards. 

We have now helped thousands of people gain their first board appointment or develop board careers through the advice and services we offer. Our success stems in large part from our laser focus. All we do is work with individuals to help them gain board roles. 

We have created a proven framework for a successful board appointment

A process that unpacks the exact steps our clients need to take to turn their aspirations into reality. It isn’t complicated and is simple to implement. The process is based on theory and practice, it works regardless of experience, qualifications or level of your aspirations.

Board Appointment Model

This framework is guided by what we describe as the ‘Three core pillars of a board appointment’. These three elements are critical to any successful board search and appointment. In fact, if you fail to execute any of these elements, the time taken and outcomes will be dramatically affected… along with your level of frustration. 

By focusing on these three pillars you will:

    • be able to separate yourself from your competitors,
    • unlock access to the majority of board opportunities that are never advertised,
    • you will get appointed more often,
    • get a far greater return on investment of your valuable time.

What this all means in practice, is what I am going to lead you through over the next 12 months via these weekly articles. If you are keen to move a little quicker, join me at my next Board Search Breakfast. Running for just 90 minutes, I will elaborate on the framework you need to follow to transform the way you go about finding and gaining a board appointment.

About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world

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