BCKR Event: Philip Marsden – the headhunter’s perspective
Philip Marsden speaks to BCKR
For the last 18 years Philip has worked in senior recruitment and founded Ridgeway Partners, the international leadership advisory firm, in 2004. Philip has a refreshing approach to getting lawyers onto boards, being prepared to think outside the box.
Philip also has himself extensive board experience at executive and non-executive level. He has sat on the boards of two public companies and he is currently a trustee of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Chairman of their Corporate Board. He also acts as an advisor to two educational trusts.
Here is a digest of his talk to members…
Philip has always had an interest in helping lawyers get on a board. He feels they represent an enormous resource of talented people. Is the tide changing? 15-20 years ago the US had much the same attitude towards lawyers on boards as the UK does today but the picture is very different over there now.
The process of getting yourself into the board room is a serious one. Make sure you really want to do it as it is not for everyone.
Whether you are at the end of your legal career or you are keen to build a portfolio of other interests, getting to the board room is a full-time job. You must first become the director of a one person business – YOU – and project manage your own life. If you are still in full-time practice – you need to commit to giving up at least 10% of your life. You can’t do it half-heartedly.
Where do you focus?
There are three groups:
1. The headhunting community
2. Private equity
3. Your own contacts which are actually the MOST IMPORTANT. Whether they are your contacts through business or friends and family
This is your networking framework. It is about lubricating the system. You can’t talk to enough people. You get back what you put in.
Your contacts are your route in to the headhunter. Remember – they don’t get paid to help you so you need to make it easy for them.
Get recommended by someone of influence. Try not to contact them directly, it won’t work.
To get their attention they need to receive a note or introduction from a contact.
Unfortunately the headhunters control the non-exec market.
Private equity companies offer interesting opportunities. Many are controlled by US firms – they like lawyers.
When people decide they want to appoint someone to their board they go out to the business world and ask for recommendations – this is where your networking comes in.
If you are unsure how to approach a company – just ask for their advice – that’s the only starting point you really need.
The only thing you have to achieve from any meeting is ONE OTHER MEETING
After putting in your hard work – try systematically to remind people that you are there
· Write thank you notes
· Send a follow-up email 3 weeks after your initial meeting (if you send it at 10.00pm it will be one of the first emails in the recipient’s inbox the next day)
· Send Christmas cards
· Follow their companies in the FT (an absolute must daily read) – congratulate them on their results
How do you work out what people are looking for on their board?
You need to flip it around and establish what you will bring – what you can add. You just have to find what is in your toolbox that will add value at that time. You will add value to a board room – you are offering intelligence and advice.
Being appointed to the board is also very much about chemistry.
How important is social media to one’s search? Is being on Linked-in important?
In the not-for-profit and public sector world it probably is quite useful but most Chairman won’t be using social media as a tool. It’s a touchy feely business. Social media is part of your armoury but it will not get you a role.
Are Audit Committees options for lawyers?
Lawyers can be a good addition to an audit committee due to the risk factor element. However, clients and headhunters are not very imaginative and you need to get people to think outside the box. Accountants think that finance is the only element to cause concern. However the enterprise risk is far broader i.e., IT, cyber, succession. Having a legal background in an even more regulated arena is very useful. 25% of FTSE 100 Company FDs are NOT accountants!
The board is becoming a place which is very process, governance and regulation driven. Advisory boards are becoming much more common. Senior management are looking to build advisory boards around them. Could lawyers could be the perfect solution for such boards?