What Makes A Great Board Member?

Having a great board of directors is one of the most important elements of creating a successful business. They help management teams with strategy and vision, provide overall guidance, and help establish valuable contacts and connections to drive a business forward.

But what makes a great board member? You must find a person with a broad set of skills, experience, and positive chemistry that is a bit hard to define. Forbes contributor Bryan Stolle did a nice job of it in his article here, and I have summarized his key points below:

  1. Great Judgement – A board member with solid judgment keeps you out of trouble and helps you navigate difficult situations.
  2. Relevant Context – A great board member needs to have as much relevant context as possible in order to offer actionable and on-point advice.
  3. Wisdom – Both wisdom and judgment are usually the result of lots of experience in tough situations, some failure, and strong intelligence.
  4. Motivation and Interest – A board member must be always motivated to look out for the company’s best interests and actively promote those interests at all times.
  5. Style – A board member’s style should be compatible both with that of the CEO and with the other board members.
  6. Effective coach, mentor and sounding board – The board member must help the CEO see problems they may have not identified, to look further ahead than the CEO may be currently looking, or encourage different perspectives.
  7. Courage – They need to have the courage of their convictions, and make tough calls when the answer isn’t obvious and there are considerable consequences if the call is wrong.

Clearly, finding great board members with these characteristics can be extremely challenging — but we just did it at Seal.

I am very happy to announce that Clark Golestani has just joined the Seal board of directors — starting today. Clark has over 30 years of experience in technology and life sciences, and is currently the President of Emerging Businesses and Global CIO at Merck. The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries are key target verticals for Seal, and Clark is the perfect fit to provide guidance to us as we aggressively build on our success in those markets.

At Merck, Clark is responsible for the company’s portfolio of services and solutions companies, and its global health innovation venture fund. He also leads the company’s global information technology strategy and execution. Before joining Merck, Golestani was a principal with Oracle’s consulting organization and a co-founder of Cross Road Technologies, Inc., an IT management, hosting, infrastructure, and professional services company.

Clark also brings significant advisory experience as well. He is currently serving on the board of directors for UMUC Ventures, a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing adult education, and sits on the advisory councils for multiple venture capital organizations. Previously, he has served on the board of directors of Liaison Technologies, Intel’s Enterprise Advisory Board, Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab / Sustainable Computing Consortium Board of Governors, and the PhRMA Foundation Informatics Advisory Committee.

Between working with Clark, his success in serving on numerous advisory boards, and driving technology strategy at Merck, I know he brings heavy doses of all the seven characteristics described by Bryan Stolle above. We will benefit greatly from his domain expertise, technical acumen, solid judgement, collaborative style, and high levels of engagement — which he has already exhibited.

Tracking down the right board member for a company is truly challenging, but I am confident we found a great one in Clark. I am looking forward to working closely with him as we continue to increase our levels of growth and market leadership, and know he will make a significant contribution at Seal.