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Utah Business' Outstanding Directors Awards

Directors Honored for Mentorship, Guidance

Salt Lake City—Beyond the C-suite and its complement of leaders, many public and private companies and nonprofit organizations benefit from the mentorship and governance from a board of directors. On Thursday, Utah Business and the Utah chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) honored five directors who help make their companies soar.

“In our modern business environment, companies face a host of challenges, from out-maneuvering industry disruption to mitigating the risk that comes with growth and change. Almost daily, you can read the news stories of companies that have failed to navigate these changes—whether it’s allowing a toxic and discriminatory culture to fester or turning a blind eye as employees engage in fraudulent activity,” said Donnie Welch, publisher of Utah Business magazine. “That’s why corporate boards are more important than ever. The guidance of seasoned directors is indispensable when confronting industry disruption, fiduciary challenges or ethical dilemmas.”

Robert C. Gross, president of NACD Utah, said that guidance is more and more vital as business and technology progress.

“For the past decade and a half, the role of director has taken on a much more significant role in the triad of business leadership,” he said. “Today’s honorees are smart, they’re savvy and temperamentally poised.”

Paula Green Johnson, who serves on boards in various capacities for United Way of Salt Lake, YWCA Utah, YWCA USA and the Ronald McDonald House of the Intermountain Area, said she has always been driven by a desire to serve those around her, and her involvement in all of the boards she serves on helps her accomplish that.

“I think we’re truly blessed to do what we love and love what we do,” she said. “I volunteer because I want to make a difference, and I know in my personal journey I’ve received much more than I’ve given.”

For Lane Summerhays, being a board member at WCF Insurance is an opportunity to continue to help guide the company he once lead as CEO. The job comes with so much more weight than attending meetings or bearing a title, he said—it requires the utmost care, integrity and dedication to help the company and customers alike succeed.

“My philosophy has always revolved around three things: do the right thing, treat people the way you want to be treated and give back to the community,” he said. “As we do these things, everyone wins.”

Respect and cooperation between the company and its board are vital for a company’s success, said Todd Heiner, who serves on the board of directors for ZAGG Inc, as well as runs his own company, Express Locations. Such is the case at ZAGG, he said.

“Winning as a group constitutes more than just winning individually. It takes teams cooperating,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous learning opportunity to see such professionalism at work [at ZAGG].”

Likewise, a board can only do as much as its company will let them, so tightly tethered are the two, said Nolan Karras, lead director for the board of Merit Medical, as well as chairman and CEO of The Karras Company, Inc.

“A board member cannot rise any higher than the management team will let them,” he said.

Steve Albrecht, who currently sits on five boards—three for public companies, and two for privately held corporations—and retired from his position as professor of accounting at Brigham Young University in May, has had a wealth of experience on boards of all stripes. His extensive experience was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement award, something that for Albrecht constitutes far more than what he did on the job, said Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, on whose board Albrecht sits.

“In addition to being a successful businessman, I’d like to introduce you to a successful family man. With such a long list of achievements behind his name, you’d assume there hasn’t been time, but it’s been the opposite,” Miller said. “He’s here for the lifetime achievement award, and I think I should tell you what his lifetime has been filled with.”

While he and his wife, LeAnn, raised their six children—who have now grown the family to include 26 grandchildren—Albrecht would get up at 4 a.m. daily to get work done so he could spend time with his family after school, she said. His children remember fondly his frequent hunting, hiking and fishing trips with them, as well as his dedication to attend all of their ball games and other endeavors, she said, and he taught them lessons about life and business along the way. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was a finely honed sense of prioritization that allowed him to make the most of the 24 hours he had each day, she said.

Albrecht’s dedication to teaching and guiding those around him has showed in his professional achievements, as well, said Miller, and when the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies was putting together a board of directors, Albrecht was an easy choice.

“We’ve learned so much from you and benefitted from your experience and counsel and willingness to serve,” she said.

Albrecht said his retirement from BYU has done nothing to dull his enthusiasm for serving on the boards of SkyWest, Inc., Red Hat, Inc., Cypress Semiconductor, DMBA and the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. Despite all of his own accomplishments, he frequently feels the need to catch up to those he rubs shoulders with on those boards, he said. And though he’s worn a lot of hats in his life, nothing is quite like being a member of a board.

“For me, serving on the board is just an amazing learning experience. I often consider myself the weakest link in the room,” he said. “I get to do what I teach, but spend real money and affect real people’s lives. As an academic, you don’t get to do that. … I’m honored to be part of [these] organizations, and I’m grateful for this honor today.”

Read more about this year’s honorees in our June 2017 issue, or click here.