What inspired you to become a member of the Virtual Advisory Board community?
The red thread in my career is multi-generational family-owned enterprise. After graduate school I was in product management at the family business SC Johnson for five years before joining our own 4th generation furniture and clock manufacturing company with 22 shareholders. We built up a fiduciary board with a majority of independent directors that were very helpful in many ways including ownership and leadership succession. After 7 years I was elected president, 3 years later CEO and a year after that Chairman of the Board. The 5th generation was pursing their own dreams, so 28 years into my career in that company we sold the business to a strategic buyer. After a successful integration, I found my way to an encore career with the Family Business Consulting Group (FBCG) serving multi-generational family businesses and family offices. Over the years I found that serving on other boards helped in my own leadership development and boosted my ability to add value in a variety of settings. I currently serve on three business boards; one fiduciary and two advisory. I also participate in the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Private Directors Association (PDA) and Board Prospects. It felt natural to join VAB when the opportunity presented itself.
In what area do you feel board advisors can add the most value for Boards of Directors (BoDs) and executive teams?
Board members add important value when they closely consider all of the pre-reading materials, listen well, ask insightful questions and share experiences that may resonate with the rest of the board and enterprise leaders. Independent directors in a family-owned business are particularly valuable when they are viewed by shareholders as fair arbiters. The board sees that the business is well run in a manner consistent with the vision, values and business performance expectations of owners. Directors can facilitate ownership succession, leadership development, compensation, and feedback. They oversee strategy and the allocation of capital. It’s no wonder that companies with boards that include three or more independent directors perform better, on average, over the long run.
What would be your dream company/organization to work with as a board advisor/NED?
I would love to join the fiduciary board of a durable consumer product manufacturing and marketing company owned by a multi-generational family where the business is successful and continued growth will rely on innovative product development. That’s the kind of business where I spent most of my executive career.
What book would you recommend to VAB members that might improve their skills in corporate
governance, board advisory or boosting board-to-executive team communications?
The seminal book, Building a Successful Family Business Board, by Jennifer Pendergast, John Ward and Stephanie Brun de Pontet is essential reading for anyone developing, serving or aspiring to a family business board. Joe Schmieder, author of Innovation in the Family Business packed his valuable insights into an article I highly recommend that was published by Private Company Director: https://www.privatecompanydirector.com/features/make-innovation-priority-your-board Equally important for effectiveness on boards is a solid understanding of markets and human motivations. Some great books include, I, Pencil by Leonard Read, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek and When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life that Matters by Harold Kushner.
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