Do the due diligence before you say ‘yes’

It’s a red letter day, you’ve got news that the board post you’ve been chasing has been offered to you – and every fibre in your body is yelling out telling you to say ‘yes’…and to say it now!

After all, it’s the first board position offer you’ve received, you have worked tirelessly for it, your dream has been realised and you’re understandably thrilled at the news.

Sadly, in many such cases, the enormous euphoria tends to trump judicious thinking and rational judgement.  It’s pretty much a case of jubilation bashing down the one door while discernment makes a hasty exit from another!

I should know, I’ve been there and I’ve done that – and not without some regret.

Fortunately, we live and learn and I’m that bit wiser for the experience.

I realise now how important it is do a bit of due diligence on the company that’s offered you the post before grabbing it with both hands and a good deal of glee.

You might well have studied up on the company in preparation of the board position interview, but now that you’re the successful candidate, the real homework begins.

Start by gleaning all you can about the company. Visit its website, have a look at past and current annual reports and scour products and services information. Get your hands on the company’s constitution. In short, be well informed.

You’ll probably need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to access other information but that shouldn’t pose any problem or be seen as any barrier.

Then think about having a chat with the auditors and the company’s Chief Financial Officer to get a feel for the financial status of the company.  After all, you don’t want to discover a few months into the journey that the company you’re serving is found to be insolvent and as a director, you are personally liable.

You should also establish – in your conversations with the Chairman – what time commitments you’ll need to make to attend all meetings, serve on the various committees and generally be fully involved and play a valuable role.

Other matters you might like to have clarity on before agreeing to the position are the directors’ fees and the company’s standing in relation to Directors and Officers Liability Insurance.

Finally, it’s vital that you have a great feel for the calibre of your colleagues around the board table.  After all, you’ll be part of a team and you need to be sure you can work with and feel comfortable about those with whom you share the boardroom.

Above all, remember that you don’t have to give the company a decision immediately. You are entitled to sleep on it and take a bit of time.  And believe me, the time taken now to ensure you’re making the right decision will pale into insignificance when compared with the long, lonely and draining hours spent serving on a board that’s not your fit.

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