Why Networking is the Key to Your Next Board Role – with Gavin Orr.
At this week’s Breakfast Event we looked at life from the Headhunter’s Perspective with Lomond founder Gavin Orr.
Lomond is an entrepreneurial search firm focusing in large part on board appointments in the financial, consumer, business services and natural resources sectors. Gavin founded the firm and heads their Private Equity arm, counting many leading and emerging brands amongst his clients. Gavin combines a genuine interest in his clients, their businesses and their sectors – believing in teamwork, transparency and a straightforward approach to doing business.
In case you didn’t make it, here is a summary of what Gavin had to say.
Twice qualified as a lawyer, in both Scotland and England, Gavin Orr founded his headhunting firm Lomond Consulting nearly 20 years ago, in the middle of the technology boom.
Lomond works with many commercial clients across a wide range of sectors, including financial services, metals and mining, retailing, business services and consumer products. They serve all sizes of company, whether PLCs or PE-backed. Gavin has placed numerous NEDs in such companies. Lomond does relatively little work in the public sector or in Not for Profit.
Gavin adopted a different approach from many of our speakers, by questioning the BCKR attendees on their motivations and aspirations.
One recurrent theme for Gavin was the need not to be over-reliant on the headhunters. He strongly advises you to use your personal network in your quest for portfolio roles, whether or not you have a ‘classic’ or more diverse CV. When networking, you need to be determined, even ‘pushy’…. i.e. don’t come up with excuses, focus on the ten reasons why you should be taken seriously!
Gavin recommends identifying all the 100 or so senior people you have had meaningful encounters with during your career – and then deleting all those you don’t like, with whom there was no obvious bond or chemistry! Focus on those who clearly respected you and your work, preferably in the last five years (unless you have kept up contact over the years). Be direct, let them know clearly what you are after and then enough well-placed people should be prepared to meet for a coffee and help if they can. Highlight what you can bring in terms of experience and the contribution you can make, and stress that Law is a people focused client service business, usually with an international focus.
From the initial list of a hundred or so you will probably end up with no more than ten quality contacts, but this is fine as you can then build outwards to useful new contacts from this nucleus.
There was then a lively debate on whether previous experience of public sector/NFP board roles enhances your ‘sale-ability’ as a potential NED candidate in the commercial sector. Gavin cautioned there was a risk that over-emphasis on ‘not-for-profits’ would diminish your commercial credibility in the market.
There was a general consensus during the ensuing discussion that undertaking external roles while still practicing will certainly broaden your perspectives, help you become more widely networked and most likely will enable you to be a better candidate. However, such roles in themselves do not ‘open doors’ in the commercial sector.
Gavin echoed this point and stressed the primary need is to focus on communicating the commercial focus and relevance of your core legal career. He emphasised the need to get some NED interview practice, as those interviews are usually quite different from a standard job interview, and to ensure that your CV puts your legal experience across in terms that were relevant to the major tasks and decisions that confront commercial boards.
And to ‘network, network, network,’ throughout your career.