Building Your Board Portfolio with Florence Rollet

LS International

Florence Rollet, Independent Board Member for Anora Group and Arla Foods, shares insights on pursuing board work and navigating the process effectively. Emphasizing diverse skills and a strong network, she advises considering board roles at different career stages. Florence offers guidance for public and private board opportunities, highlighting the complexity of the role, requiring deep understanding and collaborative skills with fellow board members.

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Florence Rollet (00:00):
The connection between the chairman and the CEO are extremely important because they determine the success of a company in some ways because the Chairman has a very important influence on the decisions that the company is making in investment in all sorts of initiatives. And of course, a board is there to accompany the CEO in its everyday execution of the strategy.

Lauren Stiebing (00:29):
From LS International, this is the Career Success podcast. I’m Lauren Stiebing, and on today’s show we have invited Florence Rollet, an independent board member for Anora Group and Arla Foods to discuss with us how she’s been able to build her board portfolio before starting her board career. Florence worked in sales, marketing and general management for leading companies like Coty, Christian Dior, and Tiffany and Co. So welcome Florence.

Florence Rollet (00:57):
Well, thank you very much, Lawrence, for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be with you today.

Lauren Stiebing (01:02):
Thanks for joining me. So we speak with many people who are considering transitioning into a board career, but they don’t really know where to begin. And I know you can’t really disclose any information about what’s being discussed on those boards, but I thought you could share a bit around your experience on how people can better understand how to get on a board and what steps they should be taking. So yeah, at which stage of your career did you start thinking about board work?

Florence Rollet (01:32):
Look, I was always interested in these board sessions. I thought it was quite interesting to be on the side, which is less executive and much more, you know, strategic thinking. So of course in order to join such a board you need, uh, some experience obviously, and some, uh, senior positions so that people can really trust your experience. And actually my first board, I think I had around 26 years of experience when I joined it, it was Mik tro and it was really a, a very interesting way for me to discover the role of a board member in a company when you are totally out of the executive side of things. So much less nitty gritty stuff, a lot of thinking, a lot of exchange conversation with people that are not coming from the same world venue and trying to understand how to support the chairman and the CEO because for me that should be both ways.

Lauren Stiebing (02:37):
Sure. And what should the candidate have prepared and how much time should they expect to invest?

Florence Rollet (02:43):
Look, that really depends upon the expectations of each board. Mm-hmm, each board has its specific rules of governance. So some might say that they want a board meeting every month and some others will say that they just want to meet four times a year. So that’s really something that you need to understand. Of course, in the discussions that you take before joining, you need to understand what are the expectations, what are the prerequisites, what is the chairman expecting from you? And of course, joining a board means a lot of pre-work. So it’s not only a matter of attending a session, it’s also a lot of pre-read, a lot of reflection prior to any meeting. You can also be requested for specific missions that are related to your past experience and to your knowledge or expertise so that you can contribute to any specific topic.
It is indeed a lot of work. And I would say if I take a board meeting, let’s say a normal one for the two boards where I am currently involved, it means approximately three to four hours of preparation looking at the calendar, looking at the agenda, looking at the pre-read that you’ve been sent. I also do quite often a sort of press review to see if anything new of any interest can be mentioned. During the board. I prepare some questions and I try to understand, you know, the various stakes of the meeting. So it’s quite demanding.

Lauren Stiebing (04:32):
Yeah. And I know, I mean, looking at kind of full-time operational work, I would say, of course your kind of network within an industry and also network in other industries, how important that is, how much has that played a role in board work?

Florence Rollet (04:49):
I think it’s very helpful to have a broad experience because then you are able, you know, to be more agile, I would say. And of course, uh, each board member has its specific profile, its specific way of operating. Its specific expertise, I would say on my side having navigated across fast moving consumer, good industry, luxury industry, beauty and cosmetic jewellery. Having been in senior position as the president of Tiffany or as the head of, uh, business units in Christian Jar or in co but has given me a really wide array of experiences and understanding that sometimes you don’t do exactly what you would like to do and you then you need to also understand that giving advice means also be very cautious in the way you advise people in the board. Because doing can sometimes be quite different from the perspective you have sitting around the table with other people. So I’m always trying to be, of course, listening to my experience, but also fully respectful of the challenges that it represents for the people that are in charge.

Lauren Stiebing (06:08):
Sure. And would there be any other experiences besides let’s say this broad industry experience that you think are very valued by the board?

Florence Rollet (06:18):
Yeah, I will tell you that having lived in various countries and having an experience with multiple headquarters, be it, Swiss, French, British or American has also helped me understand the various types of cultures, profiles, operation mode mentality, cultures that you also need to understand. So it’s very interesting also to be able to fit into a culture. So when you join a board in the Scandinavia, I think it’s also valued by the people that you have had previous experiences in Scandinavia, but you understand the way you speak to people, you manage people, you are connected to people which can be totally different from an American way of operating or I would say even a French one. So that’s quite helpful for me that I have this experience and that I can also try to use this agility if I might say so, to make sure that I am not totally out of context. When you open your mouth on the board, you need to be credible, you build your own credibility around the table. And, if you want to be listened to and if you want to have a word that is uh, carefully listened, then you need to show that you are really fit with the culture. It’s very, very important to have this mindset and this way of connecting to people.

Lauren Stiebing (07:55):
And yeah, I know that public boards versus private boards are gonna have different governance. So yeah. What would you say would be the best way to position oneself to land a public board versus a  private board? Or would it be quite similar?

Florence Rollet (08:10):
If the company is at the stock exchange? It represents a lot of responsibilities. As a board member, you need to declare yourself, you need to be, uh, identified by authorities, et cetera. But I will tell you, even if it’s not the case, if it’s a private board, the same rules operate because, uh, of course you will have less insider trading, obviously if there is no share to sell. But to be honest with you, you share the same confidentiality, you share the same respectful rules of the governance and uh, you cannot speak of any content of any board public or private. It’s exactly the same. So at the end, the duties are very, very similar. I would say that the public one means that you are identified by authorities as a potential trader.
That means you need to respect rules that will prevent you from doing any insider trading, which is extremely important and that everybody should keep in mind on an everyday basis.

Lauren Stiebing (09:21):
And yeah. What surprised you the most about board work?

Florence Rollet (09:25):
I don’t say it surprised me, but I realized that there is a tremendous importance of the role of chairman. And actually I would also say the connection between the chairman and the CEO are extremely important because they determine the success of a company in some ways because the chairman has a very important influence on the decisions that the company is making in investment in all sorts of initiatives. And of course, a board is there to accompany the CEO in its everyday execution of the strategy. And so to me, I would say that it is probably what I learned that the role of the chairman and the connection with his or her CEO are absolutely crucial. And as a board member, you need to understand that and to also play a role in the way you connect to both of them. Sure. So that’s for me what I probably have understood out of my, what, 10 years of experience in boards. It’s very interesting. And I think that the chairman role is absolutely a fantastic role to play also because it’s requiring all the same skills of managing your board, managing the strategy, taking decisions in investment that can be very important for the future and the financial assets of the company. So I think it’s a very interesting role to have. That’s more or less what I would say about what I learned out of this experience.

Lauren Stiebing (11:05):
All right, Florence. Well, thank you so much for all of this insight. Even I would say more junior individuals at manager, at director level, vice president, as they climb up the ranks, I would say many people are trying to just really understand what is going on there, how do I get there, and what’s it like to be there. So I appreciate you sharing your experience.

Florence Rollet (11:28):
Thank you very much for having me here, and it was a real pleasure. Thanks again. And our best wishes to all the potential candidates for board meetings.