To excel in business, you need to have a top-tier executive team. But it’s also vital to have a sage and visionary board of directors behind that team. On Thursday, Utah Business, in conjunction with the National Association of Corporate Directors recognized some of the state’s top board members at the 2018 Outstanding Director Awards.
“Today we are here to honor those who have served as board members throughout our state,” said Elle Griffin, editor-in-chief of Utah Business. “And I think it’s appropriate that that’s how we describe the position: as a service. Because these individuals contribute their time, energy, and expertise so that corporations, governments, and non-profits alike can benefit from the talents they have employed throughout their careers.
“Like a mentor, these men and women guide their organizations toward success while helping them to avoid the many pitfalls that could ensnare them, in some cases without receiving any kind of recompense in return. For that, and for many other services besides, these individuals are truly deserving of our honor and recognition,” she added.
Of recipient Gil Fuller, whose board service includes USANA Health and Sciences, USANA CEO Kevin Guest said his experience and integrity had proven integral to helping the company weather some recent storms well.
“He’s always been firm in where we’re going but he’s always been flexible about how to get there and I think that’s what makes Gil such a good board member,” he said. “It’s such an asset for me as a CEO having someone to go to like Gil and be able to trust in his experience and expertise.”
Mr. Fuller noted how much the role of boards has changed since he began his career, and admonished other board members and companies to take the role seriously.
“There are many issues boards face these days, much more than in the past,” he said. “But if I could make a suggestion to those of us serving on boards, it would be this: It’s the tone at the top that really makes the difference, and it’s our responsibility to set that tone. I would further suggest that tone be one of honor, integrity, and excellence.”
Jeff Olson, president and CEO of Boart Longyear, on whose board honoree Gretchen McClain sits, also noted Ms. McClain’s experience as a benefit to the company. Ms. McClain, who early in her career was instrumental in designing and launching the International Space Station, has had invaluable insight into both the business and technical aspects of the business, he said.
The opportunity to interact and learn from board members and all the companies whose boards she sits on has been a treat for Ms. McClain, she said.
“It really stretches your mind. It makes you listen. I’ve always enjoyed learning and it’s enjoyable to see wat you can learn from one company and what things you can apply to a company in another industry, and what you can’t,” she said. “What’s important with building an executive team and board is truly trust and the ability to get along. You don’t need to all be singing Kumbaya, but you have to be able to trust one another.”
O.C. Tanner CEO Dave Petersen, who sits on multiple nonprofit boards, has always been quick to remember and point out the successes of others, but reluctant to accept recognition himself, said Mindi Cox, senior vice president of people and great work for O.C. Tanner—ironic for a man in charge of a company dedicated to helping businesses recognize the excellence of their employees. Mr. Petersen, however, said he was grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the good that nonprofit organizations and the boards that help govern them do in the community.
“As I thought about this event and my own experience on boards, it’s the effect such a relatively few number of people can have on an organization,” he said. “I think this is especially true of nonprofit and community boards.”
Mr. Petersen said those boards were places where people of all backgrounds and political leanings could work together, and where members from large companies disproved the stereotype of greedy and unfeeling corporations, and added, “Inside the boardroom you will find sacrifice, empathy and caring. … What you won’t find is selfishness or apathy.”
The event took an emotional turn when Sorenson Capital Co-Founder Frasier Bullock lauded honoree Greg Warnock’s selflessness and wisdom.
“Every interaction I have with him, his kindness effuses out of his nature,” said Mr. Bullock. “Whenever I look at him on a business front, he sits back and takes in what’s being discussed, then he talks and people listen. He can mesmerize an entire group of people with his brilliance and capability.”
Mr. Warnock said of the remarks, “If you knew how much I held Frasier in high regard, you’d know those words meant as much to me as this award.”
Working with startups and entrepreneurs and serving on boards of companies helping to fund them is different than most boards, he said, just as the role of entrepreneur is unlike any other.
“This category, this venture-backed category, is unique. It’s about growing, not maintaining. It’s about taking risks, not mitigating risk,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is the world I live in, and I think it drives the most good in the community. … If done well, it offers independence, self-reliance—it lets us chart our own course rather than the course charted for us.”
The final honoree to be recognized at the event, longtime legislator and business leader Pat Jones, has touched virtually every industry in the state through her long and storied career. Linda Wardell, general manager of City Creek Center and chair of the board for the Women’s Leadership Institute, for which Ms. Jones is CEO, said the award was great recognition for Mr. Jones’ contributions to the community, and urged attendees to help elevate capable women around them.
“If you would like to honor Pat’s award today, you can do it in a couple of ways,” said Ms. Wardell. “If there’s a woman in your organization you feel needs to be elevated, that would be a great way to honor Pat and her award. If there’s a woman in your life you think should run for political office, [encouraging her] is another way of honoring Pat.”
Ms. Jones also stressed the importance of having more women present and active in leadership and governing positions.
“I know we have so many great leaders in our community. I’ve heard for years the state’s excellence is because of our great leadership. We have great leadership with men and women,” she said. “[Having more female leadership] isn’t for window dressing. We need the brains of women and the experience of women and the diverse backgrounds women bring to our boards.
“We have so few women in our executive positions, in the legislature, in Congress,” she added. “My firm belief is that our world would be kinder, softer, more humane if we had more women making policies for the issues facing us today.”
You can learn more about all our honorees in the June 2018 issue of Utah Business or here.