Category: Leadership

Things Everyone Should Hear

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Dr. Reatha Clark King, a member of the NACD board and a former longtime director of Exxon Mobil, agreed to be filmed recently for a new product NACD will launch in fall 2010. Anyone who has had the joy of hearing from Reatha will know that her grace, passion for quality and excellence, and her wisdom shine through every word she utters. Luckily she is not short of words.

Reatha is a research chemist who was part of the space program in the 1960s. Her job? To make sure rocket fuel really had the firepower needed to get America, if not to the moon and back, then certainly into orbit. In the research labs of the National Bureau of Standards the young Dr. King learned how to test hypotheses, ask questions until she was sure of the answer, and manage risk—skills that have served her well in her subsequent work as a director.

I asked Reatha to share her thoughts on why leaders from all walks of life should consider board service. Our self-study, multimedia program is called “How to Be(come) a Director” and is intended primarily for C-suite executives who are on the brink of board careers, and so it’s possible that many of you are too experienced to ever sign up for it. That would be a shame, because I think even the most grizzled and world-weary director would learn something from Reatha’s response. Here, just for you, is a sample of what she said. Enjoy—and be glad American entrepreneurialism continues to benefit from her judgment and commitment, day in and day out.

How to Be(come) A Director will be available from NACD in the fall. Don’t miss this chance to explore director responsibilities and rewards with some of America’s leading governance experts—directors who can lead the way for you.

Independence, Process and Courage

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Prof. Charles Elson, Director, HealthSouth

Prof. Charles Elson

This month, I had the pleasure of working with longtime NACD member, Professor Charles Elson,* from the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. In addition to his academic work, Charles is also a member of the HealthSouth board of directors.

Charles was talking about duty of loyalty and duty of care (“Don’t be sleazy; don’t be sloppy.”) and advising boards about how to stay on the right side of the law. He emphasized the importance of independence; of thinking through and detailing the board’s decision-making process; and of courage—the guts to do the right thing.

Courage is a concept we have been thinking about a lot at NACD, and, indeed, we have arranged a plenary session at NACD’s annual conference to explore just what it means in the boardroom.

During their plenary session Courageous Board Leadership, Boeing lead director Ken Duberstein and former Lockheed Martin chair and CEO Norm Augustine will be interviewed by NACD’s CEO and president, Ken Daly.

They’ll speak about turning points in their own public service and board leadership and the times when they had to add courage to independence of thought and careful process. In addition to guts, both Ken and Norm have big hearts, sound judgment, and great senses of humor.

Don’t miss the chance to hear these two great storytellers reflect on their board experiences and share their passion for exemplary board and public service leadership at the NACD Corporate Governance Conference this October in Washington, DC.

Norm Augustine on Courageous Acts
Hear aerospace engineer Norm Augustine (also former chair and CEO of Lockheed Martin and former Undersecretary of the Army) talk about the courageous acts of 12 of his friends who walked on the moon – and the courage needed to face our energy crisis.

HBO History Makers Series featuring Kenneth M. Duberstein
Listen to the chairman and CEO of the Duberstein Group, Inc., who served as White House chief of staff during President Reagan’s administration, discuss his experiences.

*Coming soon: NACD’s multimedia, self-paced course, How to Be(come) a Director, will be available online later this year and is facilitated by Professor Charles Elson.

The M&A Litmus Test: Part 5

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We have arrived at the last day of your M&A Litmus test—the most important test of this series. We’ll evaluate your…

…Good Business Sense.

Finally, do your directors really understand your business—and business in general, as in, “I am selling a bolt of cloth, let’s make a deal?”—or are they in compliance mode, focusing on this, that, or the other rule?

Doing a good job in M&A oversight really does come down to good business sense. The late, great J. Fred Weston, a mentor of mine, once boiled reasons for M&A down to ten.  One of them is to increase the size of a company and therefore increase the power and pay of managers—never a good reason for M&A. But the other nine reasons make good common sense. In closing, I’ll share Fred’s list with you now.

Ask yourselves if the merger will:

  • Achieve economies of scale by buying a customer, supplier, or competitor (“operating synergy”)
  • Accomplish strategic goals more quickly and more successfully (“strategic planning”)
  • Realize a return on investment by buying a company with less efficient managers and making them more efficient (“differential efficiency”)
  • Realize a return by buying a company with inefficient managers and replacing them (“inefficient management”)
  • Increase market share (“market power”)
  • Lower the cost of capital by smoothing cash flow and increasing debt capacity (“financial synergy”)
  • Take advantage of a price that is low in comparison to past stock prices and/or estimated future prices, or in relation to the cost the buyer would incur if it built the company from scratch (“undervaluation”)
  • Assert control in an underperforming company with dispersed ownership (“agency problems”)
  • Obtain a more favorable tax status (“tax efficiency”)

All these come down to this: Will this transaction work for our company?

So, with these five items in mind – M&A IQ, Fiduciary Duties, Strategy, Information Flow, and Good Business Sense – let me ask you: Will you pass the M&A Litmus Test?  It’s an important question.  Don’t cram at the eleventh hour. Start studying now!

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