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Board Lessons learned with great pain

February 21, 2012 1 comment

I had a conversation with Jon Saxe a career biotech executive, who has seen it all from the big company experience(Roche) to small start up with venture backing and everything in between. I asked him to give me his advice about Boards of Directors and this is what he said:
1.   Board have two duties, the first being that of Oversight and the second being that of the Nurture.
These are very different functions and his advice to would be Board members is “Don’t Be Shy” Speak out during Board meetings. His astute observation, now that he currently sits on 7 Boards, is that by the time one has had their career long enough to merit a Board seat, they have gone from specialist to generalist, and this is a good thing, because a board member has to be able to speak on issues where they are not expert!
In this way they are fulfilling the requirement of DUE CARE.
2 .  Jon felt that serving on multiple boards helps one educate themselves, by comparing what is done on other boards you bring a depth of knowledge not gained by going to board schools.
3.  In his mind diversity on a board is a good thing and includes more than just sexual diversity. He currently does not have any women of his 7 boards.
Having international diversity in terms of culture  and diverse geographic representation on a board is critical as a company grows globally and adds a level of interest to other board members.
4.  The Board can help management through its network, and this falls into his category of nurture. The more people you know, the more you can help.
He did not mention loyalty, but having known Jon for 30 years, I can personally attest to his brand of loyalty. Jon is currently Chairman of the Board of SciClone Pharmaceuticals and enjoys his bi yearly trips to China. He is currently looking to expand his Board and would like a person who knows all the aspects of how pharmaceuticals are priced in the various regions of China. If you know someone let me know.

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