Why I Belong on a Corporate Board

by francine Hardaway on December 23, 2010

I belong on a corporate board. Thank you Kara, for reminding me of this. I hadn’t thought about it in a year or two. Some time ago, I approached my friend and former neighbor George Fisher and told him I felt I had a lot to offer a larger company, and I wanted to be on a corporate board. I said that without more diverse thinking on their  boards, companies can’t get out of the mess many of them find themselves in because of the rapidly changing business environment.  George is a veteran of several corporate boards himself, and I think he respects me. Or at least tolerates me in the line behind him at Starbucks.

“You would hate it,” he said. “You would be frustrated because you couldn’t get anything done.”  And then he gracefully exited the conversation. Left to think about the kinds of boards he was on at the time, I concluded he was probably right and put the thought of being helpful by being on a board out of my mind.

But then I read Kara Swisher today, and I realized I am eminently qualified to be on the  board of a tech company, because tech companies move at a pace familiar to me from my experience with startups.Tech companies aren’t yet frozen in time (most of them).  It wouldn’t be like being on the board of GM. After all, I work with tech companies all day long, and have done so since I first invested in Go-Video back in 1984. Since then, I’ve owned three companies, spent a short time at Intel, and coached, mentored, and consulted with over 400 companies. I’ve also invested personally in about two dozen.

Sure, some of them have vanished over the years, but all of them have taught me something. That lesson is largely about fiscal responsibility and its evil twin, overhead.

In seventeen years of owning the largest marketing company in Phoenix, I also helped launch and market more companies than I can remember — banks, software companies, medical device companies, health insurance companies, user interface companies. I was the marketing person for the company that developed the first assistive technology interface for the Mac.

I’ve raised money and spent money. I’ve seen the interpersonal nightmares of companies that could have been successful but weren’t.

It isn’t that, like some other women I know, I’m just tired of not being recognized for my accomplishments the way men my age are recognized for theirs — with board seats.  It’s different. I’m not a feminist, and I don’t really have a sense of entitlement to the Men’s Locker Room keys. Truth be told, I don’t want the Men’s Locker Room keys. It smells funny in there. Rather, I look at these companies from the outside and know I could be helpful. My marketing experience crosses a broad swath of industries and verticals. I always know how to reach people, and I’ve got a network that won’t quit.

I tested my hypothesis on Tery Spataro at lunch. She didn’t think I was nuts.

I think most corporate boards who gain by looking further for board members than the usual suspects. Perhaps at a futurist, an original thinker, or a risk taker. I qualify. I’d qualify on those grounds even if I were a man.

Happy Holidays!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Merlin U Ward December 23, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I think you’re perfect for a tech board! But I have to agree with Mr. Fisher, you’d get incredibly frustrated. Just think of how often you get frustrated with Joan – and she’s your friend! On a side note… the Men’s Locker Room doesn’t smell funny anymore – some company came up with a machine that makes it smell good, automatically… Should’ve jump on that one when I had the chance.

hardaway December 24, 2010 at 2:09 am

Merlin, you might be right, but I’d like to give it a try.

hardaway December 24, 2010 at 2:09 am

Merlin, you might be right, but I’d like to give it a try.

Tery Spataro December 27, 2010 at 10:48 pm

You have a lot to offer to the corporate board, the corporate board would be foolish not to take advantage of all that you can do for it. It’s time to put the entrepreneurs on the boards especially those boards that are stuck in their circular thinking.

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