Revenue Rehab: It's like therapy, but for marketers
Nov. 2, 2022

CMO Exit: Securing a Coveted Board Seat

This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Coco Brown and Sabrina Hannam. Coco is the Founder & CEO at Athena Alliance and Sabrina is the CEO & Board Chair at Boardswell.  On the couch Brandi, Coco and Sabrina will tackle CMO Exit: Securing a...


This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by Coco Brown and Sabrina Hannam. Coco is the Founder & CEO at Athena Alliance and Sabrina is the CEO & Board Chair at Boardswell.  On the couch Brandi, Coco and Sabrina will tackle CMO Exit: Securing a Coveted Board Seat.

Athena Alliance has helped thousands of leaders grow and advance in their executive careers and has brought over 400 women to corporate boards from growth stage private companies to name brand public companies. And as the founder and CEO, Coco has personally worked with hundreds of top leaders, CEOs, and boards to evolve modern leadership. She’s served on ten commercial and non-profit boards and advisory boards, and has led two notable companies (Taos, acquired by IBM, and now Athena). She is part of Nasdaq's Governance Insights Council and is often called on to share guidance to the evolving focus and breadth of responsibility within the Modern Boardroom.

Boardswell is a B2B technology enabled marketplace start-up that leverages proprietary technology to successfully match multicultural candidates for private and public board roles to diversify America's corporation boards by 30% by 2030. As the CEO & Board Chair, Sabrina creates value by leveraging her network to finance, grow and diversify businesses. In her concurrent role, as Chief Corporate Development Officer at a technology start-up with unicorn status of $1.5B, she created the Environment, Social, and Governance that green-lighted $125 million in Series C financing from SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

In this week’s episode, Brandi, Coco, and Sabrina discuss another ‘next step’ for CMOs in our Revenue Rehab series on CMO Exits: Securing a Coveted Board Seat. 

Bullet Points of Key Topics + Chapter Markers:

  • Topic #1 Is Securing a Board Seat the Next Step for You? [07:09] Brandi asks Coco and Sabrina to outline what CMOs should consider when thinking of next steps, and how to approach timing. In conversation, Sabrina shares that she believes this is a natural next step for CMOs, while Coco stresses that CMOs should consider starting to explore this option early on.
  • Topic #2 How to Take Steps Towards Securing a Board Seat [19:32] Brandi asks Coco and Sabrina, ‘How do CMOs get ready to sit on a board?’. Coco emphasizes again that it isn’t too early to start exploring this option, and that even in your current role as CMO, you should be in the board room. Just take that step to start inquiring and asking questions, Sabrina says, whether it’s for a private or public board, start creating visibility to your network that you are looking for.
  • Topic #3 Evaluating if Securing a Board Seat is a Fit [20:10] Sabrina suggests creating your own risk profile; are you able to sit on a board in your current role? Do you have the time? Coco offers even more questions to consider like: Do you believe in the future of this company? Can I lend value? Do I believe this company is going to succeed?

So, What's the One Thing You Can Do Today?

Both Sabrina and Coco highlight the key step of writing out your value proposition as a CMO.  This is the base which helps inform many other questions and drives next steps.

Buzzword Banishment:

Sabrina’s Buzzword to banish the expression ‘digital transformation’.  Instead of using digital transformation, she says, tell us the ‘so-what’. Are you driving revenue? Are you driving growth? Say that instead.

Coco’s Buzzword to banish is ‘intersection of’.  It’s an oversimplification that ends up being a downplay; “It doesn't give enough consideration to your unique story and how you weave your unique story and themes into something that really makes you stand out” says Coco.

Links:

Get in touch with Coco Brown on:

Get in touch with Sabrina Hannam on:

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Transcript

[0:05] Intro:

Welcome to Revenue Rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita, Brandi Starr.

[0:34] Brandi Starr:   

Hello, hello, hello and welcome to another episode of Revenue Rehab. I am your host Brandi Starr and we have another amazing episode for you today. I am joined by Coco Brown and Sabrina Hannam. Coco is the founder and CEO of Athena Alliance. Athena has helped thousands of leaders grow and advance in their executive careers, and has brought over 400 women to corporate boards from growth stage private companies to name brand public companies. Coco has personally worked with hundreds of top leaders, including CEOs and boards to evolve modern leadership. Sabrina's career has been anything but ordinary. She is a high-octane executive, award winning thought leader who considers herself fortunate to have advised some of the world's brightest minds. Her advice and business strategies are regarded as the stamp of excellence in business transformation today. Sabrina is CEO and board chair at Boardswell, a b2b technology enablement marketplace start-up that leverages proprietary technology to successfully match multicultural candidates for private and public boards. Sabrina, Coco, welcome to Revenue Rehab, your session begins now.

[1:59] Coco Brown & Sabrina Hannam:

Hi!

[02:00] Brandi Starr:

Yes, thank you guys so much for joining me. I am excited to talk about CMO exit strategies, and what you both are doing to support women and minorities on boards. But before we jump into that, I like to kick things off with a little woosah moment that I call buzzword banishment. So tell me, and we'll start with you Sabrina, what buzzword would you like to get rid of forever?

[02:32] Sabrina Hannam:  

Digital Transformation. The digital era made it possible for global consumers to access goods and services regardless of their physical location, creating this borderless economy. And then COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated the pace of transformation; changing our economy, society, and the way in which we work and live. And the notion that data fuels business growth is not new, but companies are learning that it is vital to leverage data to make sure they come out stronger on the other side. CMOs as we know, own certain data. And so the importance of data from a board perspective is are the board's giving the appropriate amount of time and attention to data security at their companies, data breaches, network intrusions, cyber threats, and increased costs to customers that result in financial losses, reputational risks. What other data related issues loom in the near future for data? So I believe that instead of using digital transformation, tell us the so what. And so are you driving revenue? Are you driving growth? So that is why that is my buzzword that I'd like to get rid of. 

[03:46] Brandi Starr:

Yeah, and I also think you hit on a good point that the pandemic definitely accelerated that digital transformation for everyone. So now it's time to just like the thing that we're doing and not something new. What about you Coco? What buzzword would you like to get rid of? 

[04:06] Coco Brown:

It's very funny because I was smiling when Sabrina said that because that was the first one that came to mind. But okay, so since that one was taken, and I think so eloquently squashed, I would say I really don't like the phrase intersection of; I sit at the intersection of this and this. And I don't like it because I feel like it's a way of oversimplifying are very, you know, complex and interesting web of experiences and to sort of downplay it by saying I sit at the intersection of this thing and this thing. To me, a - it's overstated too many people are saying it and it doesn't give enough consideration to your unique story and how you weave your unique story and themes into something that really makes you stand out. 

[05:01] Brandi Starr:

I am with you on that one, and it actually aligns to some work that I've been doing recently, because as we've grown as a company, what we do has changed so much. And it got to the point where I found myself saying that; we sit at the intersection of marketing technology and marketing strategy. And every time I said it, I almost cringed a little bit inside, because it's like, oh like, that's not really getting it out there. And so, I've been doing a bunch of work on our positioning, and how to really articulate where we sit now. So I am good to put that one in the box, because I've been working to get rid of that out of my own business, as well. So I love that. So for at least for the next 30 minutes, we won't say digital transformation, or that we're at the intersection of any two things unless we start handing out driving directions. So now that we've gotten that off our chest, we can dive right in. So this conversation is a continuation of a series that I've been on called CMO Exits, and it really is around talking about the career path for a CMO. Once you reach that highest level in marketing, what next. So we've talked about everything from becoming a fractional CMO, to being an advisor to moving into completely different functions. And so there's a lot of CMOS that are at different stages in their career, and always trying to figure out what's next. And sitting on a board is one of those things that a lot of people believe that they aspire to. And it always seems like the cool next thing to do, great retirement plan. So my first question for both of you is, why do you both believe that sitting on a board is a good next step for someone in the CMO role? Well, let either of you go first.

[7:14] Sabrina Hannam:   

Well CMOs embrace their role as storytellers; they play commanding roles and brand development, customer engagement and communications. And they're adept at spotting and resolving friction in the sales experience. But as you said, Brandy, the next evolution of the CMO will be a shift from brand builder and experienced orchestrator until governance and risk. I've built a reputation for working in startups and taking inconspicuous private companies public; and these companies are generally generating high growth. I work with CMOs that are typically looking to get into these high growth, later stage companies. And with your background as a marketer, as CMOS, and even working with CEOs, you're a category creator, a category leader, you're creating that category. And in the context of let's say, a high growth company, or even an IPO, CMOs, can navigate that and use and leverage that category creator skill to create this larger platform in the public markets. So they tell the story about the market, they tell the story about their growth strategy, and they're telling the stories about the disruptive technology. And when you're doing that, so you're disrupting the market as a category creator. And then you create this narrative around that. Once you create the narrative, you're thinking about what is the problem you're solving in the market? What are you disrupting? How are you doing things now? How is your partner ecosystem, or your technology building this category? And this is one of the ways that we start to think about IPO-ing. And so when you IPO, you think about the management, disclosure and analysis, and that's the piece of the s one that the CMOs are typically drafting, you're creating this whole story around the company. And so think of it as a marketing document, a marketing tool to tell your story. And a lot of the work that you do, even if you're just a private company, you're still creating that narrative. And so even if you're not going public, you already have that skill set, you already had to tell what are the big industry trends are changing the landscape in that and MDNA. What is your category? Again, you're telling the story, and then you go through the process of creating language in a private company. I guess it's tweaked for the public company audience, but again, you're creating this differentiated narrative for an IPO. And that is a skill set that I think CMOs can use and leverage. 

[10:13] Brandi Starr:

Awesome. And Coco, your thoughts? 

[10:16] Coco Brown:  

The first thing I would say is that I would start well, before you're thinking of the next thing, because I think we often think that it's sort of one thing at a time when it can be multiple at one time. And it isn't the case that taking on a board role plus, having your operating role is going to make you have two jobs. It's actually a creative. So I would say, start thinking about joining boards, well before you think about sort of the next phase. And joining a board will make you a better leader. And that's just a universal finding that I hear over and over and over again, from executives who sit on boards. And that's because you're on the other side of the table that you're otherwise, in presenting to the board, making your case with the board, shaping strategy that you're sort of presenting to the board, and then they're talking about when you're not in the room. So if you're in that room on a board, you also understand more what goes on in the board room. And so you'll become a better performer in your day to day. So I think that that's something that's very important to consider as a part of your CMO career. And certainly, you should be in the boardroom as a CMO as well, and maybe we'll talk about that a little bit later. But the other thing I would say about why do you want to be on a board is this role, as Sabrina sort of pointed out, is it's at the center of so much. And in today's modern world, the CMO is a very critical role in the business in terms of stakeholder engagement, in terms of brand development, in terms of reputational management, in terms of go-to market strategy, in terms of all of the things that a young company might care of, in terms of CAC to LTV and what's our retention rates in churn and what's our net promoter score, like these things live in the world of the CMO. And then as you get later, I won't repeat what Sabrina said about the pre-IPO stage, but there's a lot that goes on there, that CMOs are very, very involved in. And then certainly when you're in a high profile company, whether it's a public company, or a high profile private company, that Chief market officer is really at the forefront of defining the future and also the go to market but also helping to manage the relationship between the brand and the stakeholder.

[12:55] Brandi Starr:   

And so Coco, I want to ask a follow up question there, because I think you hit on something key in that you can be in your operating role, and also serving on boards. And I know just from conversations with other leaders, there is at least somewhat of a perception that that could be very difficult. So give me an example of what does a time commitment look like, if you are serving on a board while you are still in your operating role? How do you balance that? 

[13:27] Coco Brown:  

Well, I think first of all, I will say there's sort of a misconception that the time is less or more if you're on this type of board versus that type of board. The time commitment is just different depending on the kinds of board you're on. And there's a big landscape of boards. I'm on the board of an ESOP, and most people don't even know what an ESOP is. And yet there are more ESOP's than there are public companies, which is an Employee Stock Owned Company. And you can have very small private companies, and you can have very small public companies; you can have very small venture backed companies and very big ones. So it's not the case that public equals large and private equals small. You really have to think very carefully first about understanding the landscape. So there's venture backs, 10,000 venture backed companies, 8000 backed, private equity backed companies increasing as companies stay  private longer. You've got 4000-6000 public companies at any given time. A lot of those are micro-cap and small cap companies. You can have a micro-cap company that has 10 million in revenue, or 11 people and no revenue. And then there's about 6000 ESOP's. So in each of those scenarios, you have to think less about what that financial structure is behind the business and more about the stage of the business. Earlier stage businesses are going to require a lot more of you outside of the boardroom, being involved with the executive leadership, potentially mentoring someone on the executive team and helping to sort of work through some of the challenges of scaling. And then in later stage companies, it's going to be about professionalizing more. And how do you scale? And how do you operationalize the business? So there again, might be more of a mentoring role outside of board. And then in public companies, certainly, and in late bigger private companies, high profile private companies, you're going to have more of a defined structure on the board. You'll have the traditional committees, maybe some non-traditional committees, you might have committees for a time, a committee around an acquisition strategy that you're deploying; and then you've got the main board. And it gets together increasingly frequently, if you will. If not formally, once a quarter formally, but it might have other meetings outside of just even the committee meetings. So I think what you should plan for is maybe somewhere people -- it's spanned, all the way from, say 80 hours a year to 180 hours a year. But you need to just really think about it, I think more so as does this integrate with my day to day? Is everything that I'm going to be doing that is additional workload, also a creative to me as a leader, to my industry knowledge, to where I have to travel anyway. So that you can kind of minimize how much additional hours it's putting on you. 

[16:39] Brandi Starr: 

That's super helpful. And Sabrina, I think Coco hit on something that aligns to your previous answer that I'd like to dig into more. You talked a lot about the experience that the CMO has the things that CMOs do on a day to day and the value that brings to a board. I know, another thing that I have heard in conversation is that the makeup of a lot of boards don't really seem marketing friendly, in that, you know, it is a lot of the governance and risk and audit, and some of those things that, you know, a CMO may or may not have had exposure to. So talk a little bit more about how as someone who is a marketing leader, who may not have background in all of the risk and audits and the more traditional committees, how someone in marketing can show up and be able to show that value, where it may not always be obvious.

[17:41] Sabrina Hannam:   

CMOs can talk about their amazing experience. What is your value proposition? Identify your value. You're constantly identifying the value of the company, identify your value. You're communicating your value as a board member, remember this, as Coco mentioned, not as an operator, but your board experience. And you also don't want to be pulled in most a lot of underfunded early-stage companies pull you in for advice around the CMO and around your operator role, you want to make sure that you're focused on your board role. So how do you capsulize when you're talking about yourself in a value proposition? Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? Why does it matter to this particular board? This private equity board? This ESOP? This venture capital? These portfolio companies, these public companies, because most boards are doing a specific search looking for a specific profile. And you can take that experience and SMO, and says this is what I can bring. This is the perspective that I bring. And marketing for example is spelled data, its data. And so I manage a lot of data around Salesforce, around consumers, and so you want to understand where's the company coming from? What do they need help with and then you tailor your discussion, your pitch to that. So you're going in and you're saying, I'd like to understand what you would like for me to do. And then you focus your skills around how you can support this specific company.

[19:32] Brandi Starr:  
Okay, perfect. And I want to shift gears a little bit. Another sort of thing that I think gives some people anxiety is the process or perceived process of how you get ready to sit on a board and go through trying to put yourself out there and shameless plug for Athena, I worked with one of the Athena coaches in helping me to write my board bio and there was a project with Empowered CMO that we've gotten an amazing board bio book with over 100, or I think roughly 100 CMOs. And so Coco, I'd like to start with you on this question. And then Sabrina, I'll ask your opinion as well. But what advice can you give to someone who is like, this is something I want to do? But I have no idea where to start? How do I get myself ready? How do I put myself out there?

[20:26] Coco Brown:  

Yeah. Well, so I think the first thing to recognize is that when you do feel ready, you have to realize that you're probably a couple of years behind the eight ball. Meaning you should start getting ready well, before you think you're ready. Because it often takes two to three years for even the most qualified person to land a board seat, because the stars have to align. It has to be the right role at the right time, and it's got to work for you, and you've got to be discovered, and there's all this prep work that you need to do for yourself, but then also, the other side has to find you too, and you have to make yourself that. So one of the things that we discovered also with the Empowered CMO community is that there were quite a few people said, I'm not ready yet. I don't have the time right now. And then they sort of felt like, oh shoot, why didn't I jump in, like everybody else did? Because I realize now that I should have just put myself out there, because it will take some time. So that's one thing is sort of mindset, is be okay, with the fact that it's going to take time, and even if you feel like you don't have time right now, you can do it incrementally. So what do you do? So there's a couple of things you do. One is very practical. You get curious, you get to really understand what goes on in a boardroom. So if you're a CMO, and you're not invited to your own company's board meetings, at least periodically, I think that's a problem. You should be in the boardroom. You should be presenting to your board. And there's a great movement that the Empowered CMO community is kind of sponsoring, which is drop the ING, write that no other C suite function has an -ing at the end of it. It's not the chief financing officer, yes, they finance their financing, but they're the chief finance officer, if you really start thinking of yourself as the chief market officer, you have, as Sabrina has been pointing out all sorts of reasons to be in that boardroom, as a member of your executive team. That is going to be a great preparation for you to also sit on boards, because you start to understand the ecosystem, the atmosphere, the what's important, the how they think. And that becomes something that you can say, when you're saying I'm looking for a board seat, they say, well, do you already have board experience? You say yes, because I'm in the boardroom all the time. So that's one thing. The other thing is, is that you need to think creatively about your value proposition. You're not a digital transformation, whatever -- Uh, I said the word. You're not sitting at the intersection of this and this; you are a creative human being who has a lot of value to offer. And in order to be able to articulate that you have to do the work, maybe with a coach to uncover what is your value proposition. And then I think you hand off the writing of it to someone else. I could never write my bio the way somebody else wrote it for me. It really pulls together my themes and my stories and who I am, and decided what sat on the cutting room floor because I only got one page. So there's the experiential, there's the your value proposition and you have to have the marketing artifacts. And then of course, you need to build your network in the right way to navigate to the seat.

[23:52] Brandi Starr:   

Okay. And Sabrina, advice to add for someone who's trying to get ready?

[23:56] Sabrina Hannam:  

Sure. To be involved with Naaman Gov Environments, as a Naaman Gov member where I'm looking at various board candidates all the time and researching and evaluating board members, one of the things that I focus on is really the references. I would like to hear the story behind the resume, behind the CV; and also creating networking opportunities. Your first board seat will probably come through a network that you have, it may not come through a recruiter. 70% or maybe less of board searches are going through your network. And so, create those networks, create those visibility. If you want to be on a private board, reach out to a venture capital, private equity or firm and find out if one of their portfolio companies needs a board member as well as a public company may be a little bit different, but again, it will come through your network. But everyone in a public company got their first board seat at some point. So you can create that visibility and let people know that you're looking. But I would go more to a networking and visibility and connections aspect, as opposed to simply recruiters.

[25:23] Brandi Starr:

And one other thing I know that is passionate for both of you is helping both women and minorities to get on boards. You look at all the percentages, and they are definitely significantly lower than men and non-minorities. And so help me to understand what do you feel like the barriers are? And how do we help to overcome them so that more people, even just put themselves out there to try to be on boards? And Sabrina, we'll start with you. 

[26:00] Sabrina Hannam:  

Sure. So I definitely think it's the what I just mentioned, it's a network problem. So we have most board seats are coming from a person who says -- and there's a white male elephant in the room. So I have this friend that I play golf with. And so I'm going to ask him if he can sit on this board. And so creating the network and the networking opportunity is what you need. I have started and launched Boardswell, and we have just a technology in the app that's going to connect you to the companies and the people who are ready for these board roles and board seats. And that fixes the network problem, because now we're aggregating the companies, were aggregating creating an ecosystem with all of the various membership organizations that are saying, okay, we have all these board members, but again, women of color, make up 3% of the private company boards. That's a research that was done this year. So we're creating all this movement, and we're going nowhere. So I believe that it is a network problem; we use technology for everything else, why not use the use it for this and connect the people who need to get on these board seats, because investors need it. And I also believe, I think our service is free for candidates because I think that women get paid 20 cents on the dollar and so they don't need to pay another dime. They need this service to be something that's accessible to them.

[27:38] Brandi Starr:  

Awesome. And Coco, what about your thoughts?

[27:49] Coco Brown:   

Sorry, I have airplanes going. I think there's a couple of things. Certainly one is that it's absolutely true. I just spent a day in Seattle, with a number of CEOs saying this is absolutely true. Where do they get their board members from? The golf course. And it's true even when a recruiter is involved, because even when recruiters are involved, the idea is that you're sort of casting a wider net, but they're still going to bring in the referrals from the board itself. So the most important thing is to be more in the network. Because what happens when you're not, and you're a part of a recruiting process, is you're held up against sort of the five criteria they wish somebody would fill. Whereas the person who's in the network can say I only have these two criteria, but you're going to really want these three others that I bring. And they'll talk themselves into the role. So we need to be in a position to be able to do the same. And so how do you do that? I mean, a couple of ways. One is, think about where you are right now. What is the structure of the company that you work for right now? Is it venture backed? Is it private equity backed? Is it a public company? There RPN you are in those boardrooms. Make friends with the board members of your company. If there's a venture company involved or a private equity company involved, make friends with the private equity investors and the venture capital team, and go beyond the investors that you see. Venture and private equity always have a investor side and an operational side. The operational side tends to have someone, at least a person who is responsible for building the networking community for that firm. So get to know that person because that person is the one that CEOs come to and say, hey, I'm looking outside my network for a new board member. So you want to know where do the deals happen? Yes, some of them happen on the golf course. And if you're like me and you don't play golf, then you got to figure out something else. So you get yourself invited as an advisor and into the sort of demo days that venture capital or private equity will have. You say, I'm a chief marketing officer. I can lend some value to the entire portfolio by giving you some perspective on the industry, like you make yourself useful to the environment. So people start really thinking about you. And that goes beyond telling everybody you want a board seat? Yes, you do that. And you have to make yourself valuable so they start to see you and play. And then public companies, similarly, you'll get called by public company recruiters, and you say, let me help you figure out how to fill that role. But by the way, I'm not looking for that role. I'm looking for this other kind of role. But still make yourself useful to them creatively help them think of who a candidate might be. Don't say no, I don't want that I want a board seat, make yourself useful. But then also say I want a board seat. 

[30:57] Brandi Starr:  

Awesome. Both of those are very sound advice. And so the last question I want to ask is little bit of a contrary question is, how do you know that it's not for you? So we talked about a lot of the what do you get out of it? How do you prepare? But as people are considering this, my guess is sitting on a board is not going to be for everyone. So can you think of things that would say, you know what, this is not my jam?

[31:28] Sabrina Hannam:

I'd say, I would look at your own risk profile. You create a lot of risk for yourself, when you join a public company board. Even if they have insurance, there's definitely risk around being a part of that board. Also, if you are an operator, do you have approval from your company to sit on a board? We've gone through processes where people have gone through the interview phase, and then they go to their leader, and that leader says, well, you don't have time for this board. So that's one of the ways that you're going to start to think about am I truly ready? Do I have the time to be on this board? And whether it's private or public, those are some of the ways that you want to think about that.

[32:17] Coco Brown:

I think that one of the most important decisions for you and deciding to join a particular board or join a board at all, is to understand what you're going to get out of it, as well as what you're going to give to it. What is that company doing? How do they do it? Not just the is it a SaaS product? Not that how, but what are their morals and their values, and the way they go about doing their business? Do you love the business and do you love the way they do the business? Think about it as if you are investing in the company? Do you believe in their future? Do you believe that this company is going to succeed? Because if you don't, what are you spending your time for? Sometimes people say, well, I'm not sure they're going to succeed. But this is a great stepping stone and I think I can lend a lot of value. That's not a bad decision process but I think you do need to be very clear with yourself as to why, what can I bring? What do I get out of it? And does it align to who I am and how I want to be seen? That sort of public image, even if it's not a financial risk, you know, they have DNO insurance and that risk is relatively low. There's still a reputational risk.  So am I jumping behind the right company? Does it add to who I am and where I'm headed?

[33:41] Brandi Starr:  

Awesome. Well, talking about our challenges is just the first step and nothing changes, if nothing changes. So in traditional therapy, the therapist gives the client some homework, but here at Revenue Rehab, we like to flip that on its head and ask you to give us some homework. And so I generally always like to give our listeners that one thing they can do. And if you've both got something, then it will be a bonus. There'll be two things. But what is something that they can do in a relatively short timeframe to help move them in the direction of figuring out if this is the right path for them, or getting started on that path? So any thoughts there?

[34:28] Coco Brown:

Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of things you can do. I mentioned it before, but if you are the C-suite role, or you are reporting to the CEO, so you're reporting to the CEO and your title is actually SVP of marketing, I would say if you're not finding yourself getting invited to that board room for periodically to have strategic conversations with that board, you should be so find a way to make that happen is one thing for sure. The other thing is to the extent that you are in there, you can build relationships, build relationships with your board members and board and extend it right. So those are two things that you can do right away, that I think are really important. I think the third one is, I really would -- for those of you who are part of the Empowered CMO community, you know what I'm talking about. But if you're not, you know that the idea of dropping the -ING in marketing and really focusing on you as a chief marketing officer, and what that means, when lightning cannot did that, for it was six cents, she moved from the back of the board presentation to the very first person in the room. And that is because she made herself known as the person who understands the ecosystem gets the market presents on the future direction of as well as the go to go to market strategy, she made herself essential. And I think that's those are three things that you need to think about individually. The other thing I would say is, women historically, I think we've had a scarcity mindset, and we tend to focus on ourselves, because and we tend to think we're lucky. And we tend to think that it's, you know, it's, it's scary to maybe sort of bring others along. And so you have we have this reputation of not helping other women, and we need to change that you have to bring others along like you. And that means, you know, a diverse set of women need to be moving forward, while 3% of board members are women of color, 4% of C suite executives are as well. MVP is an SVPs. So we've got to change the entire the entire pipeline ecosystem by pulling each other up.

[36:45] Brandi Starr:

Awesome, Sabrina?

[36:46] Sabrina Hannam:

Sure. I'll add you're ready as a CMO, if you're creating a narrative, you already understand how to tell a story to investors, to stakeholders, you understand again the reputational risks, crisis management. So I would go out and craft my value propositions to the CMO. Craft your value proposition and then speak to 3-5 people per week that you trust that could give you feedback and say, this is what I bring to a board? I've been involved in crisis management, M&A deals, or communications around IPOs, whatever it is, and I understand the risk oversight or whatever it is, governance and I would like for you to let me know, does this value proposition resonate with you. And then the third thing I would do is build that network. So join as many organizations as you can with people who are on board, who can actually help you get on to your private board or your public board seat that you're looking for. So I would build a value proposition go out and network and that and again, joined the organizations that can help you get there.

[38:14] Brandi Starr:

Perfect. So I think instead of one thing, I think we may have like eight but, I think that you know, the quick win is that value proposition. So I'm going to take that one as our one thing for everyone to do after listening to this episode, is to definitely write down your value proposition as a CMO. And likewise, if you are thinking about some of the CMO exit strategies, I encourage you to go back to Episode 20 on Being a Fractional CMO, that one was another really great one to help you to identify your next path. So before we wrap up today, I want to give you each give me your 3o second shameless plugs so that everyone knows how to connect with you, and more importantly, your organizations. So Coco, I'll start with you, and then Sabrina will let you wrap us up.

[39:16] Coco Brown:

Yeah, great. I mean, Athena is the ecosystem to join if you want to join boards, but also if you want to make the most out of your executive career. We're a digital platform that focuses on wisdom at the speed of business just in time, business acumen and situational based coaching. We've helped over 400 women join boards, boards come to us all the time looking for board members, and we present those opportunities to our members. So we don't make it a black box for you. You can see everything that we're working on and make a case for yourself. And a third of our members, our board members. They sit on prominent boards, from Coca Cola to Landa Lakes, to Morning Star and so on and it's the Great ecosystem. And finally, I will say that, for the Empowered CMO community, join that empowered book. We put it out every six months now. And it's something that we Athena distribute to hundreds of VCs and private equity firms, and it's the board book for, go to market and ready board members.

[40:23] Brandi Starr:

Awesome. And Sabrina?

[40:25] Sabrina Hannam:

Sure, again, I am the CEO of Boardswell. We are a b2b, tech enabled marketplace where we are using proprietary technology to connect multicultural candidates for to executive and board roles. We work with the companies to create the description, the CEOs, nominee, Gov committees for the various roles that they're seeking. And we have quarterly matching events so that once you are in our system, and you are matched to these companies, you get to have an interview with them. No golf course, no jumping through the hoops, forget about imposter syndrome, you're just going to go for it. And we encourage you to apply for inclusion. It's free for candidates.

[41:10] Brandi Starr:

Awesome. So for anyone listening, both the links to boards well and Athena Alliance are in the show notes. Coco and Sabrina, I have enjoyed our discussion. But that's our time for today. Thank you guys so much for joining me. And thank you everyone for joining us. I hope that you have enjoyed our discussion. I can't believe we're at the end. See you next time.

Coco Brown Profile Photo

Coco Brown

Founder & CEO

Coco Brown is the Founder and CEO of Athena Alliance. Athena has helped thousands of leaders grow and advance in their executive careers, and has brought over 400 women to corporate boards from growth stage private companies to name brand public companies. Coco has personally worked with hundreds of top leaders, CEOs and boards to evolve modern leadership. She’s served on ten commercial and non-profit boards and advisory boards, and has led two notable companies (Taos, acquired by IBM, and now Athena). She is part of Nasdaq's Governance Insights Council, and is often called on to share guidance to the evolving focus and breadth of responsibility within the Modern Boardroom.

Sabrina Hannam Profile Photo

Sabrina Hannam

CEO and Board Chair

Sabrina Hannam’s career is anything but ordinary. She is a high-octane executive and award-winning thought leader who considers herself fortunate to have advised some of the world’s brightest minds in the financial, sports, and technology industries. Her advice and business strategies are regarded as the stamp of excellence in business transformation today.

Sabrina is CEO & Board Chair of Boardswell, a B2B technology enabled marketplace startup that leverages proprietary technology to successfully match multicultural candidates for private and public board roles to diversify America's corporation boards by 30% by 2030. Sabrina creates value by leveraging her network to finance, grow and diversify businesses. In her concurrent role, as Chief Corporate Development Officer at a technology startup with unicorn status of $1.5B, she created the Environment, Social, and Governance that green-lighted $125 million in Series C financing from SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

Sabrina’s expertise in mergers and acquisitions, IPO preparation, divestitures, and spin-offs has proven invaluable in her Chairman of the Board role at Boardswell. Sabrina leads compensation strategy and equity award distribution as Compensation Committee Chair, advises on financial gap analysis as an Audit Committee Member and conducts search and evaluation as a Nomination & Governance Committee Member.

Prior to these roles, Sabrina advised the Chairman of the Board of Barclays Center—an 80% stakeholder in the Brooklyn Nets—on the feasibility and revenue potential of a separate sports and entertainment company after he exited his role as Barclays’ Chairman.

Sabrina’s career spans 20+ years working in multiple verticals worldwide, from Europe to the United States. She is credited with taking 5 private companies public and leading the second-largest IPO in U.S. history, a $3.2B endeavor.

A well-respected thought leader, Sabrina travels the U.S. as an invited speaker and lecturer. She currently serves as lecturer in corporation finance at Columbia University Graduate School of Professional Studies and a guest lecturer to MBA students at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Sabrina earned her Juris Doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was a Juris Doctorate candidate at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. A consummate learner, she continued her professional development at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, earning a certificate in business and public policy.