BUILDING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BOARDS AND CEOs – LESSONS FROM DONALD PERKINS

I recently went to a special Corporate Governance Breakfast, put on by Chicago United, Shields Meneley Partners,  and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP,  that featured Donald S. Perkins, former Chairman of Jewel Companies, Inc.  At this intimate Board Roundtable, he spoke on the topic of  board service.Mr. Perkins is an icon in the Chicago business community and a major civic leader.

Don Perkins

Mr. Perkins has served on numerous marquee boards of directors of companies including AON, AT&T, Corning Glass Works, Cummins Engine Company, Eastman Kodak Company, Firestone Tire & Rubber, Inland Steel Industries, Kmart Corporation, Lucent Technologies, Inc., the Putman funds, Springs Industries and Time, Inc. 

He currently serves as chairman of Nanophase Technologies, a director of LaSalle Hotel Properties and a member of the advisory board of ShieldsMenely Partners.  He is a director’s director. 

In his informal talk, he noted the following six points in serving on a board:

  • The hardest thing is to get on the first board; once on one board, then it becomes easier to get on other boards.
  • One must gain some kind of experience that a board or the company can utilize.
  • One must immediately disassociate oneself from a CEO or a senior management team whose reputation can adversely affect one’s own reputation.
  • When one is on a board compensation committee, one must not look at salary and stock in isolation in making comparisons to other similarly situated CEOs; the compensation committee must look at all the compensation and benefits a CEO is receiving  when comparing compensation packages.
  • If one always agrees 100% with management and other board members, one is not doing one’s job.
  • Because shares and controlling interests can change so rapidly, a corporate director’s obligation is more than just increasing shareholder value; other stakeholders, like employees, vendors, customers, and communities should also be taken into account.

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