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PODCAST: What it’s like serving on a board of directors

Written on Jul 1, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager  

The best board members believe in the mission of an organization and are willing to work hard on its behalf, one CEO says. 

“You don't just show up to a meeting, have the meeting and then you're done,” said Barb Smoot, president and CEO of Women for Economic and Leadership Development. “Most of the work is going to occur outside of the meeting. It's important to ask yourself, do you have the time?” 

Barb Smoot

She has served on boards such as the Nationwide Federal Credit Union, Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland and the St. Joseph Montessori School, among others and was recently named to the Columbus Business First 2021 Power 100 List. She joined the  State of Business podcast to talk about the process of serving on a board of directors, a topic she will discuss at the July 22, Women, Wealth and Wellness virtual event

Smoot said there are typically three different types of boards to serve on: nonprofits, for profits and government. 

“The benefits to serving on the board of directors for nonprofit board is the ability to move the mission of an organization forward and give back to the community in a way you're passionate about,” she said. 

Smoot said government boards typically go through an appointment process in the public sector and are ideal for individuals interested in giving back through civic engagement. 

“Being a taxpayer is simply not enough,” she said. “Every day, there are people making decisions about where you can walk your dog and how high your fence can be, etc. With government boards and commissions, they suffer from the challenges of not enough diversity. So, there's an opportunity to bring a different perspective to those boards.” 

Serving on for-profit board is an opportunity to help companies perform better and be more responsible, Smoot said. Unfortunately, there have been instances where poor board governance has landed many for-profit businesses in legal trouble, which is why it’s crucial they have ethical individuals serving on the board. 

Board governance courses are available for those interested in learning more about how boards function, and Barb said it’s also crucial to consider the time commitment involved and being willing to work to learn more about the industry of the company board you’re sitting on. 

“At the end of the day being on a board is not about your own personal chessboard where you can use the organization to benefit your career or business,” Smoot said. “But if you join a board or are appointed to a board, it's a great opportunity to learn new skill sets. It's a great opportunity to build new relationships and give back in a way to build stronger economies, stronger companies and stronger communities.” 

Join other women in discussing leadership opportunities and challenges by participating in the OSCPA Women’s Initiatives Book Club.