01 Nov Online service makes board connections
Madison, Wis. – It may not rank with the Dating Game, Love Connection, or The Bachelor, but a Madison-based online service is doing a little matchmaking of its own.
DirectorConnector, an online service that matches privately held companies with board candidates, has thus far focused on Dane County and Wisconsin, but it might be tempted to veer into another lane on the information super highway.
The service has received inquiries about expanding beyond the Midwest from organizations in California and Canada, and it has been contacted by businesses in large metropolitan areas on the East Coast and in the southwest.
Given this level of interest, sponsoring organizations are contemplating the website’s future, but they are not wedded to partnering with any particular kind of industry or business.
“Nationally, yes, potentially,” said Ron Kral, managing partner of Candela Solutions, in response to a question about a national expansion. “We’re looking at a long-term strategy.”
DirectorConnector does not charge a fee to a growing list of registrants, and sustains itself entirely through sponsorships. In addition to Candela Solutions, a Madison-based public accounting firm, sponsors include the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP and the Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corp.
The concept, triggered by business needs that surfaced in Dane County, was tested through an e-survey of 400 executives, which generated a 50 percent return rate. All but two of the responding e-mails were positive, and sponsors took that as a strong endorsement of the concept.
“We realized it would help serve clients,” said Bill Robinson, an attorney in the Business Practice Group at Michael Best & Friedrich. “It’s difficult to find qualified board members.”
At the moment, there are more than 700 registered users (defined as any person that creates a user name and password), nearly 400 registered board candidates, and 115 registered organizations with open board positions. Perhaps the key metric, however, is the 146 connections that have been made between companies and prospective board members.
On the website, which occasionally has been tweaked based on feedback gained from usability testing, board candidates are asked to complete an online profile. The profile is a combination of public and private information. Public information may include prior board experience, areas of interest, and whether candidates are looking to be compensated.
Private information, which is kept confidential until there is a mutual agreement to share it, typically includes the candidate’s contact information.
Since it is particularly difficult to find female and minority board candidates, the Website also asks for information pertaining to gender and race. “Organizations have the ability to search based on those parameters,” Kral said. “It’s been very beneficial for organizations to diversify their boards based on this information.”
Once a company has a prospect or a list of prospects, the due diligence work is up to the organization and the candidates.
DirectorConnector’s original Dane County focus did not last long, which bodes well for its national prospects. One of the reasons the Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corp. is involved is that the service became more of a statewide organization.
“Given the environment with litigation, liability, and Sarbanes-Oxley, one of the challenges we see for business is to form a qualified board of directors,” said Kim Kindschi, the corporation’s executive vice president. “This is particularly important in smaller communities.”
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