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David Clark on Board Service: ‘Start Early. Be Patient. Work with Someone like Navigate Forward’

Board Readiness Engagement Propels Former CEO to Two Board Seats

Quick Look:

  • Client: David Clark, retired CEO, consumer packaged goods
  • Services: Board Readiness
  • Consultant: Patti O’Leary
  • Value: A winning approach to stand out as a board candidate

 

Headshot in suit of David Clark
David Clark

Early retirement appeals to many corporate executives. Yet when the opportunity arose for David Clark to wind down his successful 32-year career with General Mills, he recognized that at age 55, he wasn’t quite ready to trade full-time work for full-time leisure.

Instead, he used the months leading up to retirement to explore his options. An engagement with Navigate Forward helped Clark decide that a pivot to corporate board service was the right next move. He now serves on the boards of two companies, OI Glass, Inc. (NYSE: OI) and Nordic Naturals, and is actively looking for a third board seat.

“Boards are a great way to stay engaged, to keep contributing,” Clark explained. “There’s tremendous flexibility. It’s a fantastic lifestyle to manage the next chapter, and that really appeals to me.”

The Value of Outside Guidance

Clark credits the one-on-one coaching he received from Patti O’Leary, Board Readiness Practice Lead, with helping him target the right companies, clearly articulate his value, and ultimately, accelerate his board search.

“While I was on the management side of boards and in front of boards a lot, I didn’t fully understand the process of how director selection happens, how to position yourself, what a board bio is. And, even for a marketer like myself, it’s hard to sell yourself; you’re not always in touch with your strengths,” Clark said.

Patti helped me hone in and articulate my value proposition, then look for boards where those differentiators would be additive

A talented corporate leader with extensive global experience, Clark’s career included leadership roles with many iconic brands, from Häagen-Dazs and Yoplait to Cheerios and Nesquik. Most recently, he served as president and CEO of Cereal Partners Worldwide, a $2 billion joint venture between General Mills and Nestle.

A key part of his Board Readiness engagement focused on identifying a succinct message around his unique skills and international roles. This professional narrative then became the “through line” for networking, his board bio, LinkedIn profile and other board search materials.

“Patti really coached me in a great way to advocate for myself and make sure I had a strong story,” Clark explained. “She helped me hone in and articulate my value proposition, then look for boards where those differentiators would be additive. The confidence that I got was huge.”

Landed First Board Before Retirement

Starting the board preparation process prior to retirement paid off for Clark. He landed his first board, OI Glass, while still employed. Many boards actively recruit directors with full-time roles or with recent corporate experience.

Boards are a great way to stay engaged, to keep contributing. It’s a fantastic lifestyle to manage the next chapter.

From the first board meeting, Clark knew he had made a good match. His previous experience driving innovation and transformation in the food industry, especially launching a premium yogurt brand in a glass jar, dovetailed well with the direction of OI Glass.

“I loved being with all these people from diverse backgrounds, but yet no one’s perspective was quite like mine,” Clark recalled. “I was unique in what I was contributing. I was learning from them. It was a really great experience.”

Cultivating Opportunities Through Professional Networking

Clark found the OI Glass opportunity through an executive search firm; a past coworker introduced him to his second board, Nordic Naturals. Since most board openings are unadvertised, learning how to target the right meetings, build relationships with recruiters, and cultivate a productive network are a core part of Navigate Forward’s Board Readiness service.

The support and expertise that Navigate Forward brings, it’s hard to put a price and value on that

“The biggest insight for me was how important networking is,” Clark noted. “You really have to put in the time and effort, and I did. It can feel uncomfortable and intrusive, but the hard work pays off in getting to great opportunities.”

He added, “I started in October 2022, and by the holidays I’d had almost 20 networking calls. I hit it very hard. And you have to stay on it, reconnecting, following every opportunity. You never know where it might come from.”

The biggest insight for me was how important networking is. It can feel uncomfortable and intrusive, but the hard work pays off.

Clark also gained a greater appreciation of LinkedIn’s importance to networking and building professional relationships, thanks to Navigate Forward’s specialized expertise for executives and board candidates.

“It’s critical to have and maintain a really strong profile,” he noted. “You may never hear a word about it but it’s being looked at all the time. It’s a source of credibility.”

Grateful for ‘Support, Expertise and New Thinking’

Now officially retired, Clark enjoys his new career path of board service. To bolster his work, he’s pursued additional professional development, including a cybersecurity course with MIT and certification with the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). He’s actively searching for a third director opportunity, ideally with another public company.

Work with someone like Navigate Forward—you need the sounding board, the challenge

While his Board Readiness engagement has technically ended, he still takes advantage of the resources and expertise available to all Navigate Forward alumni.

“The support and expertise that Navigate Forward brings, it’s hard to put a price and value on that,” Clark said. “It leads you to new ideas and new thinking that can make a difference.”

His guidance to other aspiring directors?

“Start early. Be patient. Work with someone like Navigate Forward. You need the sounding board, you need the challenge, you need the push. Then stick with it—it will happen.”

Explore our Board Readiness resources and learn more about our expertise and guidance for aspiring directors.

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