While public companies often dominate the news cycle, privately held companies play a major role in the global economy. According to Forbes, the largest 212 private companies in the U.S. represent $1.33 trillion in revenues. Although they aren’t subject to the full gamut of requirements as dictated by listing exchanges and regulatory agencies, private companies are inching closer to their public counterparts in terms of governance practices, according to the 2011 NACD Private Company Governance Survey. To be released next month, this survey details the governance habits of America’s private company boardrooms. According to our data, in few cases do the practices between public and private boardrooms differ greatly.
All companies are faced with an extremely challenging economic environment. As a result, private company directors, like their public company counterparts, have maintained focus on strategic planning and oversight. In fact, boards have listed corporate strategy as their top priority for the past three years. Oversight of corporate performance is consistently ranked as second. These two concerns indicate that private company directors, despite the economic volatility, focus their attention on the long-term sustainable performance of their organizations.
While some priorities remain unchanged, private boards have also made adjustments in response to the current environment. This year, the need to build bench strength is a top issue for directors. Executive talent management and leadership development rose to the third most important issue, its highest ranking to date.
The findings from the private survey are typically a leading indicator of the “hot topics” being discussed in America’s boardrooms. At a time when corporate leadership is under heightened public scrutiny, the rising importance of executive talent management is a positive sign.