Board Engagement Could Be Your #1 Big Idea for 2016 | NAWBO

Board Engagement Could Be Your #1 Big Idea for 2016

By Joanne Tica Steiger
NAWBO Chicago Board Member

No one can do it alone. I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.

Advice from others has shaped my most important milestones – from the early days of my father teaching me to tie my shoes to the graduate professor enlightening me on the finer points of andragogy right down to my current business advisers suggesting I focus on stage two companies. In the instances where I’ve folded my arms and said, “I don’t need anybody,” I have almost always fallen short. The fact is: We need others to succeed.

This is particularly true in business. As the founder and managing director of Certified Impact, LLC, a Chicago-based training and development agency, I serve on a number of advisory and nonprofit boards (including NAWBO Chicago’s), offering advice on growth strategy and organizational development. Many people are familiar with the idea of serving on a nonprofit board of directors. You champion the cause, gain experience, network, and feel almost heady when your efforts make a tangible difference.

Another, less thought of, type of board is an advisory board for your own corporation or sitting on one for another company. According to American Express OPEN "State of Women-Owned Businesses 2014,” one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned. One breakaway strategy to surpassing that financial benchmark is to surround yourself with people who have accomplished what you are looking to achieve. Advisory boards fill confidence and knowledge gaps.

In my experience, I’ve found that many women believe soliciting help from others reflects weakness. The “we-can-do-it-all” mentality is not surprising. We run the business and the household. We plan the IPO and the family party. We’ve been “doing it all” for a long time. Asking for help, though, is a prerequisite for business growth. An advisory board of three to five people (think of them as professional mentors guiding your business with lodestar precision) can be the catalyst for your business to run at breakneck speed. Leave friends and family off the list. Go for colleagues possessing skills you don’t have. Typical honorariums may include equity interest in the company or a meeting stipend ($1,000 per quarterly meeting is not unusual).

Next, understand the objective of your board. Is it broad or narrow? Is social media a major deficit or will your board be architecting your business roadmap over the next five years? What records do you want to break? Where are your business’ greatest weaknesses and how can a board fill them? How will your board contribute to your sustainability and long-term vision?

Keep your board informed. Give them a copy of your sales goals, P&L, customer surveys, employee comments, and any other intelligence two weeks prior to each meeting. Reserve meeting time for strategic discussion, not as a sharing session. Your board’s performance is, in part, based on the information you provide. Clearly communicate your expectations. Embrace negativity and conflict. If you want to grow, forego umbrage for learning.

Now that we’ve looked at creating an advisory board for your business, let’s explore you serving on one for someone else’s corporation. This is a great way to elevate your business stature and plant your flag as a thought leader.

How do you find a seat at the table? Put your name out there via your network and industry trade organizations. Let them know you are willing to serve as a mentor or on a board and that you have demonstrated success in particular areas. Don’t be shy about showing your credentials. Your message to prospective board members and to the CEO of the company you hope to serve: “I’m going to be effective for you, and here’s why.”

Authenticity reigns when working on another’s behalf. Self-serving reasons proffer failure for everyone involved. Be upfront about what you want out of the relationship. The desire to help the other company grow should be first and foremost.

A relevant quote from Bloomberg Business: "You need advisers to bounce ideas off, to provide a reality check, to tell you when you're about to mess up, to confide in when you're alone at the top."  

Let’s make 2016 the year for women to extend beyond our business borders. Board engagement is a path laden with growth opportunities – and one you never have to travel entirely alone.

Joanne Tica Steiger is the founder and managing director of Certified Impact, LLC, a Chicago- based agency that provides strategic advice, structured training and tools, and leadership support for entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations seeking a sustainable and growth-focused business model. Tica Steiger has an M.A. in training and development (Roosevelt University, Chicago) and is currently pursuing a PhD in business psychology (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology). Tica Steiger most recently served as program director and adviser for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative in Chicago. Email Joanne at

Board of Directors vs. Advisory Boards

Board of Directors

  • Governance, binding advice
  • Not very flexible
  • Fiduciary and legal responsibilities
  • Regulated by Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)
  • Majority independent
  • Committees
  • Audit
  • Compensation
  • Nomination
  • Board self-assessment
  • Executive sessions 3 year terms
  • Expected to be reelected 3 times
  • Total 9 years
  • More commitment of time by directors and management
  • Higher fees to directors
  • D&O insurance

Advisory Board

  • Flexible in term length (PartnerCom recommends a one-year term which gives leverage to change as needed)
  • Guidance, non-binding advice
  • No fiduciary or legal responsibilities
  • Flexible in mandate
  • Can be created to address specific organizational needs and disbanded as soon as goals are met
  • Less commitment of time by directors and management
  • Flexible in compensation
  • Skills and experience more important than rank
  • Can attract people companies can’t afford to hire
  • Lesser fees, creative compensation, or stock
  • Candid, forthright advisors
  • No D&O insurance

Source: Joanne Tica Steiger, NAWBO Chicago Board Member, and founder and managing director of Certified Impact, LLC.


NAWBO Membership Fees: More Options, More Flexibility

READ NAWBO’s FAQ: Simplified Membership & Dues Structure

3 Member Options for NAWBO

1. Premier Member

Member receives all communications and publications, is eligible for all discounts and benefits, and is listed in the online member directory.

Chapter membership is automatic for those whose businesses are located in a chapter area. To qualify for membership, members must own a percentage of their company.

Voting Member: Voting empowers our members to directly impact the current and future movement of the organization with policies and processes.


  • Maui Mastermind Virtual Coaching valued at $2,400
  • Complimentary one-year PR Newswire membership valued at $2,000
  • FCA US LLC (formerly Chrysler Group) is offering NAWBO members AND family members in the same home a $500 cash allowance on the purchase or lease of most Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT®, Jeep® and Ram® models
  • Sage Payment Solutions complimentary setup valued at $75
  • Enterprise software and professional services offered by the One Page Business Plan - a tool used for precise business planning
  • Opportunity to submit content for publication in the NAWBO ONE e-publication for women business leaders
  • Invitation to participate in the MentorCloud online mentoring platform
  • Early Bird Discount to NAWBO National events
  • Access to e-Learning Series that provides business solutions to build better business leaders
  • PerkSpot program offers significant savings with a robust menu of over 500 different merchants

Note: All member benefits for this category include the benefits for the Introductory member category.

2. Introductory Member

Member receives all communications and publications, is eligible for limited discounts and benefits, and is listed in the online member directory. Chapter membership is automatic for those whose businesses are located in a chapter area. Those outside the 45-mile radius of a chapter qualify for NAWBO Virtual membership. (Non-Voting Member)


  • FCA US LLC (formerly Chrysler Group) is offering NAWBO members AND family members in the same home a $500 cash allowance on the purchase or lease of most Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT®, Jeep® and Ram® models
  • Significant Savings up to 70% with Independent Stationers
  • Special tools provided by Constant Contact
  • Discounts provided by UPS
  • Access to e-Learning Series providing business solutions to help become a better business leader
  • Learn from the Resource Center of cutting-edge business information on the NAWBO website
  • Eligible to participate in NAWBO video contests

3. Supporting Member

An individual or non-profit organization who subscribes to the objectives of NAWBO and wishes to lend support to NAWBO through membership. This category of membership includes the same discounts as the Premier member.

The individual does not need to be a female business owner; this category includes students and retired women business owners. (Non-Voting Member)



NAWBO Chicago Members Lead List of 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Led by Enterprising Women Magazine. 
Congratulations to these top women in business: Millie MaddocksRosemary SwierkEva Niewiadomski and Sophia Leaguedi received Enterprising Women of the Year awards. Mayra Khan, Mun Wong, and Nicole Martin earned spots on the Champions roster, a newly added category this year. These business leaders will be recognized at the 14th Annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference, Sunday, February 28 to Tuesday, March 1 at The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami, Florida.

Read more about the Class of 2016 Award Winners.

Read more about the Class of 2016 Champions.

NAWBO Chicago Members receive the honor of the 2016 class of Women of Influence by the Chicago Business Journal.
Congratulations to the 2016 class of Women of Influence!
Elizabeth Colon, president and founder, Metaphrasis Language & Cultural Solutions LLC
Dr. Margo Jacquot, Founder and Director, The Juniper Center
Mayra Khan, Director, Nova Driving School
Melissa Lagowski, Principal, Big Buzz Idea Group

Read more about the 2016 class of Women of Influence.

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