The Correct Way to Write a Board Member

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As a shareholder or even a customer, you have the right to communicate with the board of a company. You could be congratulating the bigwig on what a great job he is doing or lodging a constructive complaint to improve the goods or services the company provides. No matter the situation, there are some conventions you should adhere to when contacting someone in the upper echelon of a company. With any luck, you’ll soon get a reply and get the change you wanted.

Considerations

Understand the mindset of many company board members. They did not get to the 50th floor by being timid wallflowers. Board members are generally smart, hardworking people who attended college (including business school) and have worked their way up through the hierarchy of the firm. Try to communicate in clear, professional terms to reach them. According to the University of North Carolina, you should assume that the person reading your letter has a limited amount of time to consider your letter, so try not to be long-winded.

Formatting

Employ standard business letter format. This is not difficult to do, and it tells the board member (and her secretary) that you are probably a reasonable, rational person whose concerns should be considered. Begin with your full address and other contact information, then include the date, then the board member’s address. The next part of the letter is the salutation. Try to avoid gender-based titles. For example, begin a letter to Chris Bridges with “Dear Chris Bridges.” If you use “Mr.,” you run the risk of getting off on the wrong foot in the event “Chris” is short for “Christine.”

Tone

Write in a calm, professional tone, even if you’re upset. To double-check for this, set your letter aside for a couple of days and read it when you’re in a cooler state. If you’re still concerned, have a friend read your letter to look for incendiary language.

Purpose

Establish in the first full paragraph why you are writing and your qualifications. This can be very simple: “I am writing as a shareholder to register my displeasure with respect to the board’s decision to…” By informing him you are a shareholder, he knows immediately that he shouldn’t simply ignore you.

Evidence

Provide the evidence you have to support your claim. Provide as many specific details as you can to allow the board member to take action with your specific problem. For example, “The last time your firm invested in mortgage-backed securities, next-year profits were depressed by 50 percent.”

Effects

Offer a course of action for the board member to take, even if it’s something as simple as replying to you with respect to your concern. While the VIP may refuse your request, it should be easy for her to figure out what you want. “I would like to receive records of the firm’s recent transactions…”

Wrapping Up

Finish your letter with the brief, standard pleasantries businesspeople expect. For example: “I look forward to your response and thank you for your attention to this matter.” It’s a small thing, but it’s important: sign your name clearly and boldly at the end of the letter.

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