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Joining SME Boards: Navigating Path to Independent Director



About the Author: Neeraj Singh Rathore is IICA-MCA Qualified Independent Director, ICF Certified Business Coach, Author, Speaker, PMP, NLP Master, Executive Coach & an Entrepreneur. With a 26+ years of Experience and a accomplished professional with a strong track record of driving organizational success. Strong leadership and decision-making abilities with a focus on ethical and responsible governance for SME.

How as Independent Director you can be part of a board.

If you are interested in becoming an independent director or join a board as a non- executive director for an SME(small and medium enterprise), it is important to do your research and network with start up founders and investors who are already involved in the SME sector. You should also be prepared to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience that are necessary for the role.

Here are some steps on how to be part of a company board as Independent Director or as a Director:
Firstly, Be clear about your goals. What do you hope to achieve by joining a board? Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start to target your networking and search efforts accordingly.

  1. Gain experience and expertise.
    Directors are typically required to have a certain level of experience and expertise in the industry in which the company operates. This experience can be gained through work experience, education, or volunteer work. Maybe Join start up as a advisor and get the experience in terms of risks and
    Do your research – Understand the responsibilities of a board member, the time commitment required, and the skills and experience needed by corporates.
  2. Develop your network. Directors are often appointed by other board members or by shareholders. Therefore, it is important to develop your network and get to know people who are part of corporate governance. This can be done through attending industry events, writing articles, joining professional organizations,
  3. Develop your skills and experience: You can develop the through volunteer work, join some courses related to the position. Consider joining a non profit organization as a board member.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions. Be prepared. When you are interviewed for a board position, you will likely be asked questions about your experience, your knowledge of the industry, and your skills and abilities.
  5. Leverage Personal connections: Inform Colleagues, mentors, and friends about your aspiration, and ask if they can introduce you to individuals who serve on board and
    have board connections.

Additionally, look for board leadership development programs, workshops, seminars, or events offered by institutions. These programs provide valuable knowledge, insights, and networking opportunities specific to board service. These events attract board members and governance professionals and offer opportunities to network and gain insights into board dynamics.

Here are some additional tips for becoming a board member as a Director or Independent Director:

  • Be committed to the company. Board members need to be committed to the company’s vision and goals and time commitments. They need to be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to help the company succeed. Make sure to attend regular meeting and available for advice as needed.
  • Be able to work well with others and a team player. Board members need to be able to work effectively with other board members, management, and shareholders.
  • Be willing to learn. Board members are expected to stay up-to-date on industry trends and developments. Be prepared to do your research on topics like good governance, finance, strategy, Marketing, critical operations, ESG..etc.,.
  • Be able to think strategically and make tough decisions. Board members will often be faced with difficult decisions. They need to be able to weigh the pros and cons of different options and make the best decision for the company.
  • Be prepared to invest. In addition to your time, you may also be asked to invest some money in the start up.
    • A strong personal brand enables you to stand out, build credibility and enhance trust with those who can help your board journey along. Your personal brand includes reputation, unique value and executive presence.
    Benefits for Corporates to have independent directors(IDD) on an MSME board:
    • Providing objective oversight: IDD are not affiliated with the SMEs’ management team and are therefore able to provide objective oversight and be fair and transparent manner.
  • Bringing in new skills and experience IDD can bring in new skills and experience that
    can be helpful to the SMEs.
  • Connecting the SMEs with potential investors: IDD can connect the SMEs with potential investors. This can be helpful in raising capital for the SMEs.
  • Providing strategic guidance: Independent directors can provide strategic guidance to the SMEs. This can be helpful in ensuring that the SMEs are on the right track to achieve their goals.
    In order to achieve the above, here are some of the qualities and skills that an independent director for an SME should have:
  • Experience in the SME sector: This will give the independent director a good understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing SMEs.
  • Strong financial acumen: This will allow the independent director to provide sound financial advice to the SME’s management team.
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills: This will enable the independent director to build relationships with the SME’s management team and shareholders.
  • A commitment to good corporate governance: This will ensure that the independent director acts in the best interests of the SME and its stakeholders.
    Whether or not an SME needs independent directors will depend on a number of factors, such as the size and complexity of the SME, the stage of development of the SME.
    Finally as Directors to get to be part of the board, Be patient, It can take time to find a board position in a start up, so it’s important to be patient and persistent. Keep networking, developing your skills and experience and create effective Branding.

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