Though corporate directors are quick to insist they are not the engine propelling a business, they do play a pivotal role as co-pilots with the executive team. Directors bring experience and commitment to help businesses take flight, survive turbulence and chart a course to ensure a successful journey.
For our 2008 Outstanding Directors recognition, Utah Business accepted nominations from company executives and fellow board members who have worked alongside these directors. They speak of their dedication and integrity in the boardroom and the community. Please join us in recognizing six of Utah’s top board members.
Serial entrepreneur Greg Warnock used to love to fly his hang glider over Widowmaker Hill in Croydon, though he says, “I gave up that sport the day my first son was born.”
Since then, Warnock has helped young companies take flight, founding or investing in numerous technology companies all over the country and becoming one of Utah’s best-known faces in angel investing and venture capital circles. Warnock founded venture capital firm vSpring Capital with four local entrepreneurs in 2000; the group now has more than $300 million of committed capital under management and has funded more than 60 companies.
In 2007, Warnock also founded growth equity venture fund Mercato Partners with partner Alan Hall. Warnock says the time he has spent interacting with many companies has helped him be a more successful board member.
“Owning and managing many varied businesses has given me an appreciation for the complexities of managing people and executing strategies,” he says. “Acting as an investor has taught me the subtleties of governance, stewardship and fiduciary obligation. I have become more empathetic in my board work over time.”
Warnock joined the board of directors of audio products provider Skullcandy in 2005, a company of whose success he says, “I am in awe of the stunning power of perfect brand cultivation.” He helped lead Skullcandy’s Series A round of funding, raising more than $800,000 of capital. Through Mercato Partners, Warnock also led a Series B round of financing in 2007, raising $2 million. Warnock continues to play a key role in significant corporate finance initiatives for Skullcandy, including the selection of an investment bank and audit partner.
“I most enjoy spending time working on intellectually challenging problems and opportunities with passionate and engaged senior executives,” he says. “I enjoy trying on other perspectives, compromising and collaborating with other board members who invariably have diverse backgrounds and opinions.”
Bruce Reese, United Way Board Member
As a member of the board of the United Way of Salt Lake for more than 10 years, Bruce Reese says the most exciting thing he learned during his tenure is the importance of reinvention. “The United Way of Salt Lake has regularly reexamined its effectiveness and direction in order to remain relevant to its supporters and the community,” he says.
Reese is also president and CEO of Bonneville International Corporation, a position he has held since 1996. He is a director of the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation and serves on the Associated Press and the Radio Advertising Bureau boards of directors.
United Way CEO Deborah Bayle says he has been an integral part of tremendous change in the organization while serving as board chair for three years. Reese oversaw the organization make the transition from a traditional United Way to a Community Impact United Way, dedicated to finding long term solutions to the community’s most serious social problems. This involved a complete revamp of United Way’s business model, a process where Bayle says Reese remained at the center of all decisions made.
Reese also led health care reform efforts for United Way and directed a special task force designed to help align the organization’s grant-making process with its strategic initiatives and public policy work. These efforts resulted in the creation of United Way’s Community Change Councils; Bruce serves as the chair of the Change Council Coordinating Committee.
“Bruce leads by example,” says Bayle. “He inspires all those around him to step up and make the type of commitments to our organization that he makes…What makes Bruce very unique is that, most times, he does not wait to be asked. He offers his support to us. This is indeed rare. Bruce is one in a million. He does not seek accolades for the work that he does for us. He does it because he believes in our mission and because he is committed to making our community a better place for all of us to live.”
Though Reese has plenty to keep him busy, he still keeps an eye out for a great opportunity. “I’d love to sing with Governor Huntsman’s band. He’s probably better on keyboards than I am on vocals, but both of us should keep our day jobs.”
Ron Poelman, USANA Board Member
“Ron provides vision and leadership that has set the direction that has led to USANA’s current success,” says USANA CFO Gil Fuller. “He is a true steward of the loft goals established by USANA. He possesses the highest level of both personal and professional ethics and understands and is committed to his role in representing the interests of the shareholders.”
Raised in California’s San Francisco Bay area, Ron Poelman went to high school with the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Pixar co-founder Steve Wozniak before pursuing a legal career. He moved to Utah in 1986 and joined law firm Jones Waldo in 1993, where he heads up the corporate securities practice. While at Jones Waldo, Poelman helped client Myron Wentz with a transaction to spin off Wentz’ company, Go Laboratories, into USANA Health Sciences. Poelman joined the board of USANA in 1995 and is currently the most senior outside director. He credits his legal education for preparing him to be a corporate director.
“Legal education teaches you to always question and analyze and get down to the kernel of truth,” Poelman says. “In my role, I act as a counselor. I’ve learned to listen, which is a critical skill, and then to go slow. Way too many people want to go way too fast and end up making too many mistakes as a result. My experience as a business lawyer consulting businesses with a variety of problems has helped me learn to be a counselor.”
Poelman currently serves as chair of USANA’s audit committee and is on the compensation and nomination and corporate governance committees, where he has been instrumental in designing compensation packages for executive team members.
“When you make someone an owner, they do what I call ‘pick up the pencil,’” Poelman says. “They care. They know that by their creativity and initiative, they can create additional wealth for themselves as owners. You make people owners who will behave differently because they are owners. That is the key to compensation success.”
Poelman is the president of the Utah chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors, where he oversees the organization’s efforts to help directors become educated about their duties as board members. His involvement with the organization and his board service motivate him to keep learning.
“The most exciting thing I’ve learned is that great people working together can do great things,” he says. “It’s the getting them to work together that’s the hard part, but when they do, great things can happen.”
Jordan Clements, EnergySolutions Board Member
Jordan Clements says he has picked up on some essentials that facilitate success in the boardroom after serving on more than 20 boards of directors. “You have to be able to win the trust and confidence of the CEO and senior management. That requires judgment, integrity and good interpersonal skills,” he says. “Also, simply having a lot of experience with high growth businesses across a broad range of industries has been helpful.”
Steve Creamer, EnergySolutions CEO, says Jordan has been a very helpful and thoughtful board member for EnergySolutions. “He understands the company’s strategic vision and manages to be involved at the right levels. Jordan is very insightful with acquisitions as well as helping to fill key management positions and he always maintains a highly ethical point of view. He is also a great friend.”
Clements remains intricately involved with the company’s corporate governance. As chairman of the EnergySolutions Foundation Board, Clements arranged for a $1.5 million grant to go to Utah’s School of Engineering to endow a professorship in nuclear engineering. He currently served as the chair of the corporate responsibilities committee and as a member of the compensation committee.
Clements brings significant board experience as well as a legal background to both committee roles. He graduated from BYU’s Reuben J. Clark School of Law and became a partner in Carr McClellan, a San Francisco Bay law firm, where he practiced corporate and business law. In 1995, he formed private equity investment firm Peterson Partners with Joel Peterson, a former client. With Clements as managing partner, the firm recently closed its fifth fund and has more than $400 million total capital under management.
His interests also span the nonprofit sector. In 2000, Clements founded Children First Utah, a scholarship foundation which provides half tuition scholarships to enable low income children to attend private school.
Though Clements admits being a board member of a public company has become more difficult post-Sarbanes-Oxley, he is enthusiastically engaged in the opportunity to serve on EnergySolutions’ board.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with Steve Creamer and Chip Everest, fellow board members and our original partners in the EnergySolutions investment,” Clements says. “Steve’s strategic vision as the CEO has enabled the company to be a leader of the nuclear renaissance in the United States and internationally. To work with and support Steve has been a remarkable experience.”
Jake Garn, FranklinCovey Board Member
As a former United States senator, Jake Garn brings a unique perspective to the board of FranklinCovey, something he acquired by serving as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
“A lot of people can be very good in business, but the federal government can cause some complications for business,” he says. “The combination of business and government experience has made me helpful on boards to explain some of the reasons behind government regulations.”
Garn says he was excited to be asked to serve on the board of FranklinCovey after being an outside admirer of the company and using its day planners in the Senate. He joined the board in 1993, shortly before the company went public. “[FranklinCovey] is a unique company that deals with individuals and helps them plan daily schedules and their future,” Garn says. “What impressed me was that they were doing a really good job of helping people. I was using their products, and I think being a better senator because of it.”
Garn has served on the audit and corporate governance committees of FranklinCovey. He believes the most important aspect of corporate governance is the interchange of outside independent thinking.
“It is important that you are truly independent and not be afraid or unwilling to speak up if something should be changed from your perspective,” he says. “It’s not being adversarial, but being straightforward and honest with your opinions. FranklinCovey is very willing to listen and appreciative of advice.”
Originally from Richfield, Garn spent five years as a naval aviator after earning a degree from the University of Utah. When he finished active duty, he spent 20 years flying in the Air Force Reserve and today continues to regularly fly his own 1948 Navion airplane. Garn served as city commissioner, then mayor of Salt Lake City before being elected to the Senate in 1974. After 18 years in the Senate, he returned to Utah to serve as vice chairman of Huntsman Corporation. Though he has a full roster of experience, the senator counts the opportunity to go into space as a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985 as his greatest achievement.
Fred Skousen, Extra Space Storage Board Member
With a background in education and business, Fred Skousen says he loves the way board service helps him stay current with business principles and utilize them for the good of an organization. “I enjoy seeing company management create something of value that’s beneficial to the customer they serve,” he says.
Skousen joined the board of Extra Space Storage shortly after the company went public in 2004. He currently serves as chair of the audit committee, a role he also held while Extra Space Storage acquired industry behemoth Storage USA, in which the audit committee played a central role.
“Going through the transition of a smaller company eating a larger company has been both a challenge and a rewarding experience to see how it was done,” Skousen says. “It’s a major process to acquire a big company and work through all the regulations you have to.” Today, Extra Space Storage is the second largest public storage company in the country.
“Fred is a very fair-minded board member with a keen interest in building and protecting shareholder value. He works towards building consensus and is well liked and highly respected by the other board members,” says Kenneth Woolley, CEO of Extra Space Storage.
An educator for his career, Skousen spent 38 years at Brigham Young University. He served as the original director of the School of Accountancy, authoring many of the industry’s best-known texts. He also served as the dean of the Marriott School of Management, and spent the last 10 years as vice president of advancement. Skousen officially retired September 1.
Working as a consult for several large organizations, including IBM, and spending time as a faculty resident at the Securities and Exchange Commission and PriceWaterhouseCoopers helped Skousen bring an understanding of what questions to ask while serving on a board, he says. “The board is supposed to ask good questions and get factual answers so they make sure they protect the shareholders’ interests,” Skousen says. “It’s been a 40-year experience of trying to learn and then apply those principles of best practices across the corporate world.”