Welcome to the Boardroom

10 years ago I had a brilliant idea. I’ve decided to launch a start-up! At that time, I had a full-time comfortable job, but the idea of having my own company, a combination of my two passions – marketing and technology, was too exciting to pass on… I’ve invested everything I had (and a lot I didn’t have), every waking moment, and every cent I could find, in this start-up.

Suffice to say I’ve learned a lot from this experience: I’ve learned about timing, global trends (GFC – hint, hint), and about the importance of not putting all eggs in one basket.

I was recently invited to attend the Director’s Institute’s Boardroom Masterclass – a full day of self-reflection, and personal career planning at the highest level.

The aim of the masterclass was to prepare the participants for the next phase of their professional career and convert their professional skills into a coherent personal value proposition. That value proposition will be used to showcase their capabilities as a valuable member of organisation’s steering committee – the board of directors.

Create multiple income streams

The first thing we had to do, was to agree that we all have the same amount of time per day, like everyone else. We all have 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. It is our choice what we do with that time.

The following exercise was to draw a circle (our time) and divide it into revenue streams – how do we generate our income? Most of us are brought up being “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. That question implies that we need to have a profession, and skill which makes us employable. One area of focus, that would be our primary / only source of income. Our Masterclass facilitator, Kylie Hammond from the Directors’ Institute drew that circle on the easel, divided it into 4 quadrants, and explained her income portfolio. Without getting into details, Kylie had multiple income streams, which included: A recruitment business, Board seats (paid positions), Speaking engagements, Coaching / Mentoring, Start-up investments (equity), Seminars and events.

If you’ve seen my own LinkedIn profile, you’ll see a similar position – I hold multiple positions, simultaneously. Some generate income in the present, some are equity positions, and others are voluntary (unpaid) positions to create leverage for the future. Portfolio diversification isn’t just for investment professionals – it should be a general practice for all of us. In particular, I’m referring to people who hold a senior, employed position. You are – my friends – under constant risk! Generating all of your income from one source puts you in a very dangerous position – no company is too big to fail (see Kodak, Lehmann Bros, GM, ), not even the company you’re currently employed with. In many cases, the fall is sudden, and without warning. Having a plan B is something I can advocate from personal experience – almost 10 years later and I’m still recovering from my “lesson”…

It took a while, but this is how my career portfolio looks now:

Main Business – Orange Sky – a Marketing Services company

Independent consulting

Overseas Business – CXC Global Israel (Contract management firm)

Two board positions –

NFP Board of Directors – unpaid

Tech Start-up – board of advisors – sweat equity (shares)

5. Various business interests (partnerships) – I contribute my marketing expertise, as an investment (time) to gain value over time.

There are still more things I can and want to do, such as capital raising (there are great commissions to be made), paid board memberships and Coaching / mentoring. Those additional activities don’t take too much time, but can really supplement a professional position’s income, and sometimes even completely replace it.

To be able to have such diversified portfolio, you need to do two things, preferably in that order:

. Define your value proposition

You are a brand – know what you are, what you stand for, and more importantly – what you’re known for.

How people see you is just as important as how you see yourself. Self-esteem and self-worth are obviously important, but not enough. There has to be a correlation between your own perception of yourself, and how others value you.

The legendary motivational speaker Jim Rohn made a big impact on me when he asked: “what do you want to be known for?”. That’s one of the toughest questions to answer, but also one of the most important. Deciding what you want to be known for is crucial if you want to create a multitude of income streams. You want to be known for something, that people will come to you for, or immediately think of you when a certain need arises. You and no one else. Everyone knows many lawyers, but why would someone pick you over everyone else? What aspect of the law are you best known for? The same is true for most professions…

There are many ways to build your personal brand, and create a name for yourself in your area of expertise – publish a book, write a blog, contribute to other blogs, speak at events, have yourself profiled in the media, be nominated (and hopefully win) industry awards, are only some of the ways you can build your profile.

There’s always competition in your field, but if you build your brand well enough, it will stick, and pop up in your network’s mind when the time comes.

And that leads to the second thing you have to have – a strong and wide network!

2. Build your network

Networking doesn’t come naturally to most people. Many people are introverts and don’t feel comfortable in large groups, or even small groups of strangers. Small talk isn’t something we learn in school, and for the younger generation – the word “stranger” automatically rhymes with “danger”. That’s a real shame, in my opinion. We’re bringing up generations of people who are naturally suspicious of others, and not trying to find common grounds and opportunities. It is widely known fact that 70% of roles are filled from within the organisation, whether it’s a promotion or a referral from one other employee.

When it comes to a board position, the chances of applying for an advertised position, and being appointed to a board, are smaller than one might think.

In Australia, the most sought after board position is naturally with aan ASX200 company. Granted, there are only 200 companies on that list,and only 80 available positions are advertised each year. Statistically however, most board members ever held position on one ofthe ASX200 boards, have come out of one of 8 (EIGHT!) private high schools. This fact can be quite discouraging for aspiring board members, but shouldn’t be. Notwithstanding the high-school background of these board members, sitting on one of these sought-after boards doesn’t come easy. Most of the directors on these ASX200 boards aren’t first-timeboard members. They’ve “cut their teeth” in other boards, and gained experience across variety of boards.

One of the important attributes of a board member, and an important benefit they can bring to their organisation, is the ability to open doors. The ability to pick up the phone and call the local MP, a mate who’s serving on another board, or anyone who can add value to the at a time of need. Hence, building a network is paramount to your desirability as an aspiring board member.

Having a network which can help you secure a board position is very different from having a network in your industry, or within your company. Many people will boast a large (500+) Linkedin network. But if you look closely, you’ll find that for many – peers and industry contacts are the main make-up of that network.

A board level network is quite different – It’s a network built of like-minded people, people who share a passion, a network of leaders who are continuously looking to expand their network into their areas of interest. There is a common interest shared amongst these people, but not necessarily a shared profession, or industry.

You’d need people who are outside of your immediate circles, people who can add value to you as a board member, and you could add value to them. Finding these people isn’t difficult – you’ll find them in conferences, networking events, chambers of commerce, etc. but not just amongst the audience – those people will be speaking, hosting or sponsoring those events. These are the people you need to align yourself with at the event, but that’s just the beginning! Having a short chat and exchanging business cards is just the first step. You should always follow up with a coffee or a lunch (keep it professional for as long as possible. Dinner and Drinks will come later). Then find a way to help them in any way you can – introduce them to someone, use their service in some capacity, and just keep in touch.

Relationships aren’t built overnight, as you know. It would take years to grow a substantial and strong network, and there’s no better time to start than right now!

Written by

Raz Chorev

Chief Marketing Officer | Board Director | Advisor |

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