What will be the board and C-Suite talent requirements? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

Enable the board of directors and C-Suite to have a discussion regarding their talent requirements and how to manage those requirements.

You can download a PDF of this article from:  What will be the board and C-Suite talent requirements V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • A company without a competitively differentiated board of directors and C-Suite will not survive.
  • Define the current and future value contribution required from each role. Assess each candidate’s capabilities in terms of their historical impact on value and their future potential to impact value.

What type of company is this article appropriate for?

  • Public companies with no controlling shareholder or group of shareholders (e.g. no founders with dual class shares, no voting trust).
  • This article is not designed for private companies with a unanimous shareholders agreement reserving key decisions (e.g. CEO appointment, value creation/strategic plan approval) for shareholders or investors.

Your company’s future is uncertain.

  • The future global environment is uncertain. (e.g. technology, politics, the economy, climate change)
  • Both the future members of your company’s ecosystem, and their interactions are uncertain. Members of your company’s ecosystem include: customers, employees, local communities, society, and investors.
  • Becoming or remaining a large company requires understanding the problems and needs of customers who are willing and able to pay. These problems and needs often change over time.
  • Becoming or remaining a large company requires creating and maintaining competitively differentiated solutions and assets. These solutions and assets will be constantly changing and evolving in your company’s uncertain future.

Why do you need a talented and competitively differentiated board of directors and C-suite?

  • It is your company’s competitively differentiated talent which develops competitively differentiated solutions and assets based on a competitively differentiated understanding of your company’s ecosystem members.
  • Capital availability has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, and is close to unlimited. The availability of quality talent has had little growth.  The scarcest talent of all are those people who are able to grow and develop the capabilities of others. Great teams need great coaches and advisors.

What drives talent requirements for the board of directors?

The director can enable long-term success and value creation via the decisions they make; and the actions they take.

The decisions may include:

  • Appointment, termination, and compensation of the CEO.
  • Review and approval of the CEO’s value creation plan (often referred to as the strategic plan)
  • Ensuring there is a pool of successors for the CEO and the C-suite.

The value creation actions may include:

  • Representing the company with key members of the ecosystem such as government.
  • Introducing the company to the directors’ network of relationships such as: investors, potential employees (including CEO and C-suite successors), suppliers, business partners.

The directors must have history of enabling value creation.

  • Directors are like airline pilots. They aren’t needed when the company is smoothly executing the flight plan.  The directors are needed when there are problems, crisis and black swan events. E.g. replacing the CEO.
  • Each director needs a history of decisions which have resulted in major value creation. For example, past appointments of CEOs who successfully executed their value creation plans. If a director has no history of appointing CEOs, or approving C-suite members, then you need to carefully consider whether they should be nominated. Director education is insufficient.  You cannot learn to ride a bicycle by only reading about it.  You actually have to get on the bicycle and ride it, and perhaps fall many times.
  • If directors are expected to directly create value by their own actions, then they should have a history of actions which have created value.
  • The directors as a whole need relevant current understanding of: customers, target markets, adjacent markets, key components of the company’s ecosystem, and the global environment.

What drives talent requirements for the CEO?

There are three things only the CEO can do, and no one else in the company:

  • Create and maintain alignment of people with the purpose of the company.
  • Nurture the company’s values, morals, and ethics (often referred to as culture).
  • Hire the leadership team and ensure they work well together.

The CEO must be able to oversee the creation and execution of the value creation plan for the company, and modify the plan quickly as circumstances change.

What are the common talent characteristics of the board and C-Suite?

  • They must have fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the capacity to think speedily and reason flexibly in order to solve new problems without relying on past experience and accumulated knowledge. The uncertain future means that decisions must often be made for which past experience and knowledge is obsolete.
  • They must be able to quickly learn new facts, knowledge, processes etc. and unlearn what is obsolete.
  • They must be passionately curious to understand the world around them.

What are the other sets of critical talent supporting the board and C-Suite?

  • World class teams need world class coaches. The athletes who win gold at the Olympics also have the best coaches in the world.
  • The CEO needs a coach or advisory board, as part of the ongoing development of the CEO. The board of directors cannot coach or mentor the CEO due to conflict of interest.  g. A director could not vote on something which the director has coached the CEO to create – the director would be voting on themselves.
  • The board chair also needs a coach or advisory board.
  • Some members of the C-Suite may also need coaches, especially if they are potential CEO successors

What are your next steps?

Create ongoing process for managing Board of Directors, CEO, and C-Suite talent.

  • Outline the members of your company’s ecosystem, including customers.
  • Describe the components of the global environment which may impact your company’s ecosystem.
  • Create multiple future scenarios for your company.
  • What are the implications for the talent you may need: board of directors, C-Suite, CEO advisory board, and Coach(es) for directors.
  • A company without a competitively differentiated board of directors and C-Suite will not survive.
  • Define the current and future value contribution required from each role. Assess each candidate’s capabilities in terms of their historical impact on value and their future potential to impact value.
  • Determine whether or not the board has a role and accountability for value creation. e.g. relationships with 3rd In private companies, the board and shareholders/investors often have a role and accountability for value creation. In many public companies the board does not have a value creation plan. The only value creation plan is the one the CEO is accountable for.
  • Prior to a new director being nominated, they should be a compensated board observer for one year. This allows them to be evaluated.

What further reading should you do?

Why are values, morals, and ethics important?

https://koorandassociates.org/values-morals-and-ethics/why-are-values-morals-and-ethics-important/

What is the purpose of your company?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company/

Is your company planning to fail?

https://koorandassociates.org/avoiding-business-failure/is-your-company-planning-to-fail/

Traditional strategic planning dooms companies to failure.

https://koorandassociates.org/strategy-and-strategic-planning/traditional-strategic-planning-dooms-companies-to-failure/

What is public company governance? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

Provide a framework which enables public company shareholders, boards of directors, C-Suite, and other to begin discussing what is governance.

This article is written from a Canadian perspective.  Governance varies significantly around the world.

This article does not provide legal advice.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What is public company governance V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

You have to determine what exactly is meant by governance in your public company’s specific situation.  No outside expert can tell you because there is no one single answer

What is a public company?

The definition and characteristics of what is a public company depends upon the where the company is legally based.

  • In Canada a public company is “a company whose shares trade on a stock exchange”1
  • “German Public Limited Company (Aktiengesellschaft-AG) is a company having a legal personality of its own. It ownership is organized via shares of stock. As a general rule, the shares of stock can be transferred by the stockholders.  A public company can be listed on a stock exchange (listed company) or not (unlisted public company)”2

What is corporate governance?

“Corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and members of the company’s ecosystem.  Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined. “1

This definition has 4 components:

  • Relationships among the company’s ecosystem members.
  • Decision making i.e. setting objectives and approving action plans.
  • Action plans i.e. means of attaining those objectives.
  • Performance monitoring of the objectives, action plans, relationships.

Discussion around governance is often very silo based and depends upon the specific background of the governance advisor e.g.

  • Lawyers often start with the Business Corporations Act. Sometimes the legal framework is a social purpose corporation, such as a B Corp., or a partnership or a joint venture.
  • Regulators often start with financial risk management guidelines.
  • Accountants often start with quality of financial statements.
  • Consultants have a variety of different points of view.
  • IT (Information Technology) governance advisors have an IT-centric perspective.
  • Values, morals, and ethics may not be seen as a critical part of corporate governance.

Etc.

Often there this is a legal perspective of acting in the best interests of the corporation or the shareholders or other members of the company’s ecosystem.  What does this actually mean? Two example questions, for which I don’t have the answer:

  • If climate change is real, should the company reduce or eliminate it’s impact on global warming, even if that reduces company profits, shareholder dividends, and compensation for the board of directors and C-Suite?
  • Should the company lobby governments to reduce or eliminate environmental laws and standards in order to increase company profits?

After company management, its board, and its shareholders have heard from several different advisors, there is a confusing and disjointed picture of governance with limited shared understanding.

In Canada, there is a broad range of decision making authority in a public company. Some of the possibilities are listed below.

  • Public company with no controlling shareholder. Shareholders elect directors and approve major change. Thus, the board directors have the bulk of decision making authority, but may delegate much of this authority to the CEO.
  • In certain cases, shareholders with a large equity or voting interest in the company have the legal right to appoint a director or directors.
  • A public company may have a voting trust. One person had the authority to vote all of the shares in the voting trust.  There are situations where the voting trust controls more than 50% of the votes. This often enables the person who votes the trust’s share to have major influence on company decision.
  • A public company may have dual class shares. Some shares may have no voting rights. Some shares may have multiple votes.  Thus, a person, or group, with a small amount of equity may have voting control of the company.  This may occur with company founders or the founding family.
  • Financing agreements may have terms and conditions which constrain the company’s decision making and may even provide the financers with decision making authority in certain situations.
  • OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) requires pre-notification of the appointment of officers or nomination of directors for the financial Institutions OSFI regulates. OSFI then has the opportunity to share any concerns or comments.

An interesting example of public company governance and the role of the board of directors occurred in Canada in fall 2021. The board of directors of Rogers Communications (a multi-billion dollar company) removed Edward Rogers, the board chair. Mr. Rogers, who controlled 97.5% the voting shares, then removed a number of directors and put in place directors who re-appointed him as board chair.  What I observed was, if directors did not do as they were told by a shareholder, the shareholder would then replace them with directors who would do as they were told.

What are your next steps?

  • Identify the decisions within your company’s ecosystem which have the greatest impact on value.
  • Define who has the authority to make those decisions. As noted above, many decisions impact your company are made by people outside of your company.
  • Remember that some people, who don’t have legal authority, may still have moral persuasion powers (e.g. If OSFI in Canada expresses major concerns about a potential board director, what will the financial institution do?).
  • Look at the regulatory regimes and governance practices of the different jurisdictions your company operates in, provides services or products, or has suppliers in.
  • Consider different scenarios. Who makes decisions can be very different in crisis than in the situation where everything is wonderful.

 Footnotes:

1 https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/entrepreneur-toolkit/templates-business-guides/glossary/public-company

2 https://www.german-probate-lawyer.com/en/glossary/def/public-limited-company-aktiengesellschaft-ag.html

What further reading should you do?

What is the purpose of your company?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company/

What is corporate governance?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-corporate-governance/

How does the board of directors create value?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/how-can-the-board-of-directors-create-value/

“What CEOs really think of their boards”, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Melanie Kusin, and Elise Walton.  Harvard Business Review 2013 April

https://hbr.org/2013/04/what-ceos-really-think-of-their-boards

“Does your board really add value to strategy?”, Professor Dieder Cossin and Estrelle Metayer, IMD Global Board Center

https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/board-strategy/

What is different about private equity governance? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Enable shareholders, board of directors, and C-suite to have a discussion regarding what is different about PE (private equity) governance.
  • This article provides general concepts. You need to understand your specific situation.  You should consult your lawyers for legal advice.  This article does not provide legal advice.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What is different about private equity governance V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • PE shareholders and PE governance is focused on value creation.
  • In a private company with PE shareholders, the decision making authority of the board of directors and of shareholders can be very different from public company governance.

Where does PE fit into the overall governance framework?

There is a broad range of how decision making is structured in different types of companies.

  • Public company with no controlling shareholder. A founder might still have effective control, even though they have less than 50% of the voting shares.
  • A public company may have a voting trust. One person had the authority to vote all of the shares in the voting trust.
  • A public company may have dual class shares. Some shares may have no voting rights. Some shares may have multiple votes.  This enables founders and families to retain voting control of a company even when they have a minority of the shares.
  • A public or private company may have PE shareholders. They may have certain rights, such as being able to appoint a certain number of board directors.
  • In a private company, PE may have a wide range of governance options.

PE and management are aligned with a common focus on long-term value creation.

Shareholders, the Board and C-Suite all focused on value creation with a common set of metrics.

  • Decisions are based on maximising this long-term value, even if short term quarterly or yearly profits are impacted.
  • PE firms often have exit time horizons, often between 7 and 10 years.
  • The bulk of potential management compensation is aligned with the value shareholders achieve when they exit.
  • There some PE funds with long-term or perpetual time horizons, which require more complex compensation structures and metrics for management.

Public company shareholders and management are often not-aligned.

  • Many public companies do not have long-term value creation metrics, targets, or regular reporting of results against these targets.
  • Many shareholders, such as pension funds have a long-term time horizon. The board of directors and management are often focused on quarterly and yearly targets, and achieving the public guidance they have issued.
  • Management compensation is often not aligned with shareholder returns. For example, when share value drops: management is often issued new stock options at a lower price; management is still given major bonuses; etc.

The PE asset class has outperformed public company markets.

PE has outperformed public market benchmarks over the last five-, ten-, and 20-year periods.1

Public companies often have little significant long-term value creation.

Mark Leonard, CEO of Constellation Software, in his April 20, 2018l CEO letter. “Qualified and competent Directors are very rare, and not surprisingly, the track record of most boards is awful. According to the 2017 Hendrik Bessembinder study of approximately 26,000 stocks in the CRSP database, only 4% of the stocks generated all of the stock market’s return in excess of one – month T-Bills during the last 90 years. The other 96% of the stocks generated, in aggregate, the T-bill rate over that period. This means that 4% of boards oversaw all the long-term wealth creation by markets during that period. Even more disturbing, the boards for over 50% of public companies saw their businesses generate negative returns during their entire existence as public companies.” 2

PE company board directors and shareholders have a deep understanding on the company.

PE boards and shareholders may:

  • Have deep involvement with the company, unlike many public company boards.
  • Have two-way communications with the CEO and C-Suit weekly or more often.
  • Have support staff to analyze ongoing company reporting and do follow-up questions.
  • Regularly assess whether or not there is the right CEO.
  • Require the CEO to have a coach.
  • May have a board director or PE shareholder deeply involved in critical value creation initiatives such as M&A.

Public company boards often:

  • Take the approach of “noses in, fingers out”, unlike private equity which has fingers in.
  • Have limited two way communications engagement with the CEO and C-Suite.
  • Only have third-party analysis of the company when there is a crisis or major event.
  • Assess whether there is the right CEO only when there is a crisis.
  • Do not have directors deeply involved in critical value creation activities.

The majority of public company directors have limited understanding of their companies.

A McKinsey survey of board directors showed that most had little understanding of their companies. Only 16 percent said directors strongly understood the dynamics of their industries, just 22 percent said they were aware of how their firms created value, and a mere 34 percent said they fully comprehended their companies’ strategies.3

What are some of the decision making differences between a public company with no controlling shareholder vs a private company controlled by PE shareholders.

In public company some of the decisions with the greatest impact on long term value are made by the board e.g.

  • Approving the CEO’s strategic plan.
  • Approving major business changes or major changes to financial leverage.
  • Appointing or terminating the CEO.
  • Nominating directors, who require election by the shareholders.

The above decisions in a private company controlled by PE are often made by the shareholders. Sometimes the shareholders may set the strategy and appoint a new CEO to carry out the new strategy.

Fundamental corporate transactions (e.g. sale of company, merger, sale of substantially all assets of corporation) often require shareholder approval.  The decision making process can be much faster in a private company.

PE shareholders may the authority to restrict or even over-ride the decision making authority of the board of directors.

  • PE shareholders may have a unanimous shareholders agreement, which specifically limits the decision making authority of the board of directors and reserves certain decisions for shareholders. In this scenario, PE shareholders have the potential to veto any board decision or make any decision on behalf of the company.
  • PE shareholders may have certain veto powers over certain company decisions even without controlling votes.
  • PE shareholders may be in a voting trust enabling one individual to make decisions based on the voting rights of all the trust members.

What are your next steps?

If you are in a PE governance environment, either a stable situation or transitioning:

  • Step 1 is to document the expectations of the key members your governance environment, which may include: PE shareholders, the board directors, C-Suite, regulators, etc.
  • Step 2 identify the differences in expectations.
  • Step 3 outline the principles and process for moving towards a common set of expectations.
  • Step 4 assess your legal governance documents relative to expectations and make the required changes. Not all expectations can be included in legally binding documents.
  • Step 5 put in place an ongoing process to monitor and manage expectations.

What if you’re not in a PE governance situation? Your next steps are the same. You will still need to understand and manage the expectations of major shareholders.

 Footnotes:

1 A year of disruptions in the private markets McKinsey Global Private Markets Review. April 2021, Page 22

2 https://www.csisoftware.com/docs/default-source/investor-relations/presidents-letter/presidents-letter-april-2018-final.pdf

3 “Corporate Boards need a facelift”, Eric Kutcher, (McKinsey Partner) McKinsey website, May 4, 2018

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-strategy-and-corporate-finance-blog/corporate-boards-need-a-facelift

What further reading should you do?

What is corporate governance?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-corporate-governance/

What are your company’s decision making principles?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-are-your-companys-decision-making-principles/

What is the purpose of your company?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company/

What are your company’s decision making principles?

What is the purpose of this article?

Enable shareholders, the board of directors, C-Suite, and advisory board to discuss your company’s decision making principles.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What are your company’s decision making principles

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Decision making principles enable better decision making, resulting in faster growth and more profits.
  • Decision making principles are inter-related with your company’s: purpose; values, morals, and ethics; value creation; and corporate governance.

What is the purpose of decision making principles?

  • Principles are the guidelines within which people make decisions. If rapidly growing or large companies have centralized decision making for every decision, the result is slow moving paralysis. If people in the company make any decision they feel like, the result chaos.
  • Successful employee empowerment depends upon principles.
  • Decision making principles enable better decision making.

What is the context for decision making principles?

There are five aligned and inter-related sets of concepts:

  • What is the purpose of your company?
  • What are your company’s values, morals, and ethics?
  • How does your company create value?
  • What is corporate governance?
  • What are your company’s decision making principles?

What are four examples of decision making principles?

The number and type of principles are unique to each company at a specific point in time.

#1The founder and CEO of a global transaction company had one simple principle. Keep customer application latency below xx milliseconds. If latency increased beyond this point, the company would quickly lose customers, regardless of any additional functionality.

#2 Staples was founded in 1986 with three core principles:1

  • Provide a one-stop shop for all of the products consumed in the office.
  • Offer everything at half price.
  • Provide a convenient place to shop.

#3 Tim Cook, early 2009 on a conference call with analysts, shortly after Steve Jobs went on a medical leave.

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We are constantly focused on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, that that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.  We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.  And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”2

#4 Ray Dalio (Founder of Bridgewater Associates, an investment firm with $150 billion (USD) in assets.  Ray’s personal wealth is estimated at $15.6 billion (USD)) wrote a 540 page book filled with his life and business principles.3

What are your next steps?

  • Review your existing documentation regarding: the purpose of your company; your company’s values, morals, and ethics; how your company creates value: your current corporate governance structure; and any existing decision making principles.
  • Interview and survey members of your company’s ecosystem to assess the degree to which your documentation reflects current reality.
  • Assess the degree of alignment among: purpose; values, morals, and ethics; value creation; corporate governance; and any existing decision making principles.
  • What are the differences between the perceptions of the ecosystem members and your company’s documentation?
  • What are the ecosystem member perceptions in the cases where your company has no documentation?
  • Analyze the above, including by ecosystem member.
  • What are the implications for your company?
  • Determine what improvements need to be made to the behaviour of your employees (this includes board of directors, CEO, C-Suite, every employee, and contractors)
  • Determine where a principle (or a few principles) could have the greatest impact on: achieving purpose; enabling moral, values, and ethics; and growing value.
  • Some possible areas which could have a major impact on value could include: selection and exiting of board directors; selection and exiting of CEO and C-Suite; the experience cash-paying customers and users have when interacting with your company; making strategic decisions; etc.

 Footnotes

1 David G. Thomson,  Master the 7 essentials of high growth companies, (Hoboken, New Jersey, 2010) John Wiley & Sons, Page 174

2 Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, (New York, 2011), Simon & Schuster, Page 488

3 Ray Dalio, Principles,  (New York, 2017), Simon & Schuster

What further reading should you do?

What is the purpose of your company?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company/

Why are morals, values, and ethics important?

https://koorandassociates.org/values-morals-and-ethics/

https://koorandassociates.org/values-morals-and-ethics/why-are-values-morals-and-ethics-important/

How does your company create value?

https://koorandassociates.org/creating-business-value/what-is-value-growth/

What is corporate governance?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-corporate-governance/

What is different about family governance? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Enable the family to discuss their overall governance structure, including the purpose of the family and family governance.
  • The article identifies potential components of family governance.
  • This article is focused on what to do, not how to do it. There is no advice on how to structure governance for your specific family situation.

You can download a PDF of this article from:  What is different about family governance V2

 What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Wealth management is only a small part of family governance.
  • Purpose, legacy, values, morals, and ethics are the foundation of family governance.

What is family governance?

Family governance involves a set of relationships among: family members, family components such as family holding company, the family office, and other family ecosystem components.  Family governance also provides the structure through which: the shared values and objectives of the family are set, the objectives of the family components are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined.

Based on the above definition, there are four aspects to corporate governance:

  • The focus is on relationships among different people and groups of people,
  • Setting values and objectives. People determine values and set objectives.  People have different interests and personal values and objectives.  The conflicts of interest need to be understood and managed to agree upon some shared values and objectives.
  • Determining how to achieve values and objectives. People have to develop plans which reflect what they will do to achieve the values and objectives.
  • Monitoring performance. The performance of people is monitored. Everyone needs to understand the personal consequences of not achieving values and objectives.

What is the purpose of governance?

Governance is the mechanism by which the purpose, values, and objectives of the family are achieved.

A critical challenge of family governance is understanding and managing the broad range of conflicts of interest.

What are the components comprising family governance?

#1 What is the purpose of the family?

Why does the family exist?  Is it to provide a certain lifestyle for certain family members?  Is to enable wealth transfer to future generations? What benefit to communities and society, if any, should the family provide?  What constraints or negative impact to communities and society should the family be committed to, if any?  The purpose of the family is intimately tied to the values, morals, and ethics of the family.

What is the definition of a family member? Who may, or may not, be a family member?  This can become complex, as people marry, divorce, have common-law relationship, have children outside of any formal relationship, as children are adopted, etc.

The greatest legacy for the founder(s) is to be able to see that memory, legacy and values will carry on through a family which remains joined. Family governance is critical to this.

#2 What is the purpose of the Family Constitution document?

The family constitution includes:

  • The values, morals, and ethics of the founder(s).
  • Other values.
  • What the family members can expect from the family businesses and investments.
  • Employment policy regarding family members in family businesses.
  • The overall family governance structure, e.g. family assembly, family council, etc.
  • Who is a family member and who attends the Family Assembly i.e. spouses and partner or only direct descendants. At what age do children start to attend and participate in the Family Assembly.

There can be additional policy documents, approved by the family council, but not part of the constitution e.g. investment policy, philanthropy guidelines.

The family constitution should be signed by each family member.

#3 What is the Family Council

  • It is the family council that helps bind the family across generations, by emotional bonding. Trusts and other legal documents alone will not be successful in keeping the family together.
  • The family council: engages the family; resolves issues (there can be angry and passionate disputes); celebrates the family; starts the education of future generations; and enables blunt discussion about the future and the policies embedded in the family constitution.
  • Articulating and gaining commitment to a common understanding of the legacy, shared vision, identity, values, and purpose.
  • Managing the transition from controlling founder(s) to subsequent generations. Ideally the new governance is in place in time for the founder(s) to see that it is working, and to be comfortable that the family will continue to be bound together in future.
  • Resolving family differences, which are often emotional and based on different perceptions.
  • The family council may enable a once-a-year family assembly where all members of the family come together. There, the family council provides an update as well as learns the views and preferences of the entire family. This can be an opportunity to build (or destroy) trust between the council and the family, as well as among the family.
  • The family council may represent different branches of the family.
  • The family council provides the legacy, emotional, and policy context for family philanthropic activities, including family foundation(s).
  • The family office provides the support required, and daily management of family council activities.

#4 What is the Family Investment Committee

  • The family investment committee recommends the investment policies which direct the investment activities of all the entities falling within the family governance structure. The investment policy is approved by the Family Council.
  • The investment policy is designed knowing that there can be swings in asset valuations and asset liquidity.
  • The investment policy also needs to consider the degree to which different family members depend upon income from the family assets.

#5 What is the purpose of a Family Holding Company (or companies)?

  • Having a wide range of family assets under a single governance structure, with a single board of directors.
  • Decisions regarding asset management reflect the overall direction of the family, rather than individual family members.
  • Enabling generational wealth transfer.

#6 What is the purpose of Family Trust?

  • Shielding assets from creditor claims.
  • Avoiding the probate process.
  • Avoiding legal challenges to asset dispersal.
  • Enabling generational wealth transfer.

#7 What is the purpose of the family foundation (or foundations)

  • It helps bind family members, providing continuity of family values, and illustrating there is more to the family than growing and sharing wealth.
  • Family members on the foundation board(s) can actively participate, and make a contribution to the family. The guidelines and policies guiding the foundation(s) are set by the family council.

#6 What is the purpose of a Family Bank (or other family controlled financial institutions?)

  • Provide finance and financial tools for family members and family controlled assets.

#8 What is the purpose of the family office

  • Supports the family members and family components with the day-to-day administration and management of the family’s affairs.
  • The services provided by a family office may include: asset management (this may include homes around the world, planes, yachts), cash management, risk management, financial planning, tax, accounting, travel arrangements, school arrangements, insurance, personal and property security, data security, vetting of employees and contractors, hostage & ransom negation, etc. The family office will depend upon third party service providers.

#9 What is the purpose of the Family Assembly?

  • Create emotional bonds between family members who may not otherwise meet frequently.
  • Provide non-binding feedback to the Family Council.
  • Provide training and education e.g. estate planning, taxes, etc.
  • Identify future leaders e.g. potential Family Council members.

What are the biggest challenges faced by family governance?

  • The family losing its understanding and commitment to long-term vision, identity, values, and purpose. This is a challenge as the family grows in size over the generations.  The family council and family office are key to helping new family members understand and commit to the non-financial legacy.
  • Gradually revising the shared vision, identity, values, and purpose over the generations. What was appropriate 50 years ago may not be appropriate 50 years from now.  Managing the desire for continuity with the need for change, which can result in passionate disagreements.  The legacy is not forgotten but actually evolves.
  • Family conflicts can easily arise, especially with multiple branches and multiple generations. A key issue can be the decisions around growing the family’s wealth vs distributing the family’s wealth.
  • The leaders find it hard to “let go”. The founder(s) may have built their wealth, based on being the decision-maker(s).  But to have a successful legacy, the founder(s) should transition to, and see, a new governance model in place.  The same challenges apply to the CEO of the family office (who should be a non-family member), as well as chair of the family council.  Thus, the succession planning for these two roles is critical and different from what one would see in traditional corporate governance.
  • The family wealth could suffer dilution or shrinkage due to high expenses, poor tax planning, or distributions to the current generation of family members. It can be difficult for individuals to defer immediate spending in order for wealth to be available for the next generation. It is key to build in the concept of “stewardship” – that the wealth is being passed onto the current generation, who must ensure that wealth is also passed onto the next generation.  The stewardship also applies to all the non-financial aspects which have been identified.
  • Entitlement is often an issue. Young family members may grow up with wealth and feel entitled as they become adults.  The family constitution should have principles around this.  As Warren Buffet said “Give each child enough money so that they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing”.  This approach to guidance as to how parents raise their children, can be a source of family conflict.
  • Intense and transparent communication with the family. If the family does not know what is happening, the family will not care. And without the emotional commitment arising from caring, the family will dissolve.
  • The subsequent generations attempt to run the family and business the same way the founder did (i.e. the family makes many investment and business decisions). The founder(s) have been successful this way.  The facts show that family businesses with majority of independent directors outperform the average public company (except in health care and financial services).  This can be a source of family conflict when subsequent generations believe they are just as competent, if not more competent, than the founder(s).

What are your next steps:

  • Determine which components of family governance apply to your situation, taking the amount of your wealth into consideration.
  • Perhaps all that is appropriate is have a will and powers of attorney and discussed those with your heirs and trustees. Even in this case, you’ll need to consider whether step-children and step-grandchildren should be heirs.
  • Perhaps there are more components of family governance you need to execute, but you’ll do it yourself.
  • Perhaps you need third parties to manage your wealth and the related financial management e.g. tax planning
  • Perhaps you need to execute all components of family governance, given the size of your wealth, as well as your legacy wishes. This will require third party help to create and manage your multi-generational governance structure.

What further reading should you do?

Why are values, morals, and ethics important?

https://koorandassociates.org/values-morals-and-ethics/why-are-values-morals-and-ethics-important/

How do you make strategic decisions?

What is the purpose of this article?

Enable founders, C-Suite, the board of directors, and investors to discuss the talent and process required to make strategic decisions.

You can download a PDF of this article from: How do you make strategic decisions

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Make sure you are addressing the right problem before starting the decision-making process.
  • Determine if the problem and decision are tactical vs strategic.
  • There are different types of strategic decisions with different approaches.

Strategic decision making is flawed in most organizations1

A McKinsey survey of executives regarding the quality of their strategic decisions revealed that:1

  • Only 28% thought good strategic decisions were frequent;
  • 12% thought good strategic decisions were infrequent; and
  • 60% thought bad strategic decisions were as frequent as good strategic decisions.

What has the greatest impact on company performance? McKinsey found that it was the quality of the decision-making process. The % of company performance improvement due to:

  • Quality of the decision-making process: 53%
  • Industry/company characteristics: (e.g. consumer tastes, implementation resource capability) 39%
  • Quality and detail of analysis: 8%

What is a strategic decision?

A strategic decision has major impact on the long-term value of the company.  It may even be a “Bet the company decision”. A strategic decision often has uncertainty in costs and benefits, a long-term future which may change, and a dependence on simultaneous outcomes.  Most company decisions are tactical, with limited impact on long-term value. The short-term  future is clear, costs and benefits are known.

What are some examples of a strategic decision?

The following is a partial list:

  • Nominating a board director. Board directors may have the greatest impact on long-term value, given that the appoint and terminate the CEO, approve strategies, plans, and policies. Directors have the ultimate accountability for company performance.
  • The appointment or termination of a CEO.
  • Selling the company.
  • Transforming the company.

Can you actually predict the future?

There are four types of forecasts.

  • There is a single path to a specific outcome.
  • There are a small number of specific scenarios.
  • There is a defined range of scenarios.
  • The unknown – it’s not possible to even define a range of future scenarios.

Is your strategic decision focused on the right problem?

Albert Einstein supposedly said “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” An adequate solution to the right problem is far better than a terrific solution to the wrong problem. Before looking for the best solution, make sure you’re focused on the right problem.

  • What is the basic need or opportunity? What is the scope of the problem?  Who in your company’s ecosystem is impacted?
  • What are the constraints: external (e.g. laws, public opinion, etc.) and internal (e.g. capabilities of your talent, including past experience, the ability to personally transform by learning fundamentally new skills and behaviours)?
  • What requirements must the solution meet?
  • What are the expected outcomes? What value is created or destroyed for the members of your company’s ecosystem?
  • Are the outcomes consistent with your company’s purpose, values, morals, and ethics?
  • How will you measure the outcomes?

 What are the four types of strategic decisions?

  • Proven historical success in your company. An example would be a company that has done dozens of acquisitions successfully and is very likely to make the right acquisition decision.
  • Proven historical success in other companies, but have not been made before in your company, or was made unsuccessfully. An example is an acquisition decision, which has been made countless times in countless companies.
  • A unique decision that has not occurred before externally or within your company, and unlikely to occur again. An example was the decision making regarding the Year 2000 software issue – never happened before and will never happen again. Your company must draw upon people with proven experience with developing solutions to unique problems. There are no: people with prior experience, processes, policies, etc. There is little value to your company in building a long-term team, documenting processes, etc.
  • A unique decision that has not occurred before externally or within your company, but likely to occur again within your company. Your company must draw upon people with proven experience with developing solutions to unique problems. There are no: people with prior experience, processes, policies, etc. Your company must: build a pool of talented people, document the processes and policies, etc.

What is the approach to each of the four types of strategic decision?

  • If your company has successfully addressed this problem in the past, what have you learned? Draw upon the people in your company with past experience and utilize documented processes, policies, etc.
  • If your company has tried and failed to successfully address this problem in the past what have you learned? Your company can draw upon external: people with experience, processes, policies, etc. If your company expects to make these decisions in future, you must: build a pool of talented people, document the processes and policies, etc. The challenge is that often the outcome is not successful, even with outside experts.
  • If the problem has never occurred before and never will occur again, what are the capabilities of the people needed to understand the problem and develop a solution?
  • If the problem has never occurred before but likely will occur again, what are the capabilities of the people needed to understand the problem and develop a solution? How will your company learn from this experience? How will your company retain the learnings, both in the experienced talent and documented knowledge?

Are your able to assess the effectiveness of past strategic decisions?

  • Was success due to the right process and people OR were the wrong people with the wrong process lucky?
  • Was failure due to the wrong process and people OR were the right people and process unlucky?

What has been the past impact of your strategic decisions?

Let’s use the example of board director selection and exiting for companies without a controlling CEO or shareholder.

  • What has been the impact on long-term value in the past 10 years?
  • How does this compare to other companies in your market place?
  • Is your company in the top quartile or bottom quartile?
  • If your are in the bottom quartile, determine whether your board director selection, development, exiting process need improvement of if the board decision making process needs improvement.

How do you know you are going to achieve benefits from your strategic decision?

  • I’ve heard countless consultants say “We developed a great strategy but the company was unable to implement.”
  • Will your company be able to successfully implement your strategic decision?
  • Has your company identified the talent, skills, experience, partnerships, capital, and other resources needed to achieve benefits?
  • If your company doesn’t have all the required resources, how likely is it that your company can acquire them?

Have you identified the decision making and implementation biases people have, and taken action to mitigate them?

Biases include:

  • Confirmation bias: people favour information that supports existing beliefs.
  • Conformity bias: people will go along with what the majority of the group believes.
  • Authority bias: people support what the authority figure believes. The most senior person may not be the authority figure.
  • Loss-aversion: Sticking to a decision, if the facts and assumptions have changed. People have an emotional attachment to a decision they have made.
  • etc.

What are your next steps?

  • Assemble the team to determine or validate what the problem is.
  • Assign one person whose sole focus is taking mitigating actions to address the biases of the decision-making team. This may be an external advisor, given that that bias identification and mitigation can lead to inter-personal challenges and require coaching of the decision-making team.
  • Determine whether you are making a strategic decision to address a strategic problem, or if this is tactical.
  • Identify what type of strategic decision you are making.
  • Review the facts and assumptions regarding the past effectiveness of the decision-making approach. What are the lessons learned in terms of what enables success and what leads to failure. Remember that luck often plays a role.
  • Identify the internal and external talent required for the strategic decision.
  • Review and revise the decision-making process. You may have to create a process if the decision has never before been inside or outside of you company.

Footnotes:

1 “The case for behavioural strategy”, McKinsey Quarterly 2010, Number 2

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-case-for-behavioral-strategy

What further reading should you do?

Few companies make decisions leading to long-term value creation.

https://koorandassociates.org/avoiding-business-failure/is-your-company-planning-to-fail/

Successful companies need external talent, just like Olympic champions do.

https://koorandassociates.org/creating-business-value/what-are-the-three-types-of-talent-successful-companies-require/

Traditional strategic planning dooms companies to failure.

https://koorandassociates.org/strategy-and-strategic-planning/traditional-strategic-planning-dooms-companies-to-failure/

What is corporate governance? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

The purpose of this document is to enable founders, CEOs, management, investors, shareholders, board of directors, and advisory boards to create a shared understand of their company’s corporate governance.

This article does not provide legal advice.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What is corporate governance V2

 What are the critical learnings in this article?

The value growth of your company will be hindered if decisions and actions are based on conflicting perspectives regarding: the definition of corporate governance, the purpose of corporate governance, and the company’s values, morals, and ethics.

What is corporate governance?

“Corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and members of the company’s ecosystem.  Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined. “1

This definition has 4 components:

  • Relationships among the company’s ecosystem members.
  • Decision making i.e. setting objectives and approving action plans.
  • Action plans i.e. means of attaining those objectives.
  • Performance monitoring of the objectives, action plans, relationships.

The members of the corporation’s ecosystem make assumptions regarding the corporation’s purpose, values, morals, and ethics based upon observations of: the nature of their relationships, decisions made, and impact of the action plans.

What are the challenges of understanding corporate governance.

Discussion around governance is often very silo based and depends upon the specific background of the governance advisor e.g.

  • Lawyers often start with the Business Corporations Act. Sometimes the legal framework is a social purpose corporation, such as a B Corp., a partnership or a joint venture.
  • Regulators often start with financial risk management guidelines.
  • Accountants often start with quality of financial statements.
  • Consultants have a variety of different points of view.
  • IT (Information Technology) governance advisors have an IT-centric perspective.
  • Private corporations may have unanimous shareholder agreements, which limit the decision making and accountability of the board of directors by reserving certain decisions for the shareholders.
  • Any corporation could have a voting trust comprised of some or all of the shareholders.
  • Financing agreements may have terms and conditions which constrain the company’s decision making and may even provide the financers with decision making authority in certain situations.
  • Values, morals, and ethics may not be seen as a critical part of corporate governance.

Etc.

Often there this is a legal perspective of acting in the best interests of the corporation or the shareholders or other members of the company’s ecosystem.  What does this actually mean? Two example questions, for which I don’t have the answer:

  • If climate change is real, should the company reduce or eliminate it’s impact on global warming, even if that reduces company profits, shareholder dividends, and compensation for the board of directors and C-Suite?
  • Should the company lobby governments to reduce or eliminate environmental laws and standards in order to increase company profits?

After company management, its board, and its shareholders have heard from several different advisors, there is a confusing and disjoint picture of governance with limited shared understanding.

What is the purpose of the corporation?

Is the purpose of the corporation to maximize money for shareholders? Is the purpose to make as much profit as possible?

Larry Fink, in his 2018 letter to CEOs, said “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate…..Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential…..And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors.”2

 The purpose remains fixed while operating practices, cultural norms, strategies, tactics, processes, structures, and methods continually change in response to changing realities. 3

 What is the purpose of corporate governance?

The purpose of corporate governance is to enable the achievement of the purpose of the corporation, consistent with the corporations values, morals, and ethics.

Corporate governance manages the broad set of conflicts of interests which arise. The OECD governance definition starts with relationships: within corporate leadership, as well as stakeholders and third parties.  Any relationship has the potential for conflict of interest, because company ecosystem members may have different or conflicting interests.  For example, how should both profits and costs be allocated among the ecosystem members, including: CEO, C-Suite, shareholders, employees, and society. This conflict become acute in cases of poor profits or losses.

Perhaps the greatest conflict of interest is deciding the degree to which the corporation extracts value from society versus creating value for society. An example is the decision on whether to whether to replace local community employees with lower-cost offshore staff which may benefit the off-shore communities or retain the employees in order to sustain local communities.

What are your next steps

The following next steps should be time boxed in a short time frame by limiting scope and using assumptions when necessary.

  • Agree upon the potential value, if any, is of a common understanding of the company’s purpose and the purpose of corporate governance. If there is little or no value, don’t proceed.
  • Document the company’s current ecosystem members and relationships among them.
  • Document the company’s current process for major decision making.
  • Document the company’s current process for monitoring objectives, action plans, and ecosystem relationships.
  • Review the process for making major decisions and revise if necessary in order to make decisions regarding the purpose of corporate governance and the definition of corporate governance. For example, does the CEO make a single recommendation to the board of directors (or does the CEO provide alternatives) based upon analysis?
  • Ask your major shareholders, board of directors, and C-Suite how they would define corporate governance.
  • Ask your major shareholders, board of directors, C-Suite, employees, and other members of the corporation’s ecosystem how they perceive the corporation’s current purpose and its current values, morals, and ethics. Also ask them why they say that i.e. what is the perceived evidence.
  • Ask your major shareholders, board of directors, C-Suite, employees, and other members of the corporation’s ecosystem what changes, if any, should be made to the currently observed purpose and values, morals, and ethics. Also ask why these changes should be made and the impact of these changes.
  • Get the perspective of difference advisors as to the purpose of corporate governance and the definition of corporate governance.
  • Make the decisions regarding: the definition of corporate governance, the purpose of corporate governance, and the company’s values, morals, and ethics.
  • Identify the implications of the above decisions. The impact includes: talent management, value creation plans, board of directors and committee mandates, company policies, etc.

 Footnotes:

1 Based on “G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance”, 2015  I added the concept of third parties, https://www.oecd.org/daf/ca/Corporate-Governance-Principles-ENG.pdf

2 https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/2018-larry-fink-ceo-letter

 3 Page 17 The five most important questions you will ever ask about your organization (2008)   by Peter F. Drucker,  Jim Collins et al, I adapted.

Further reading

What is the purpose of your company?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company/

What are the three types of talent successful companies require?

What is the purpose of this article?

To enable founders, investors, the board of directors, and the C-suite to discuss what type of talent is needed to create and maintain world-leading companies.  I recognize that many companies do not strive to be a world leader or leader in their own country.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What are the three types of talent successful companies require

How do you read this article?

This article uses the analogy of athletes that strive to win at the Olympics.  They seek to be the best in the world.

What are the three types of talent associated with global winners?

  • The team members. These are the people who actually have win the race. They must beat the competition in order to stand on the podium.
  • The trainers. They use a structured process to improve specific aspects of each team members skills e.g. using videos of the team members show what specific changes need to be made. The trainers are deep experts in specific skills.
  • The coaches. They focus on the members minds and mental state. For example, if an athlete cannot visualize in their mind what it looks like as they cross the finish line, they likely will never win. “People cannot do things they cannot imagine”1.  The athletes must also cope with frequent failure. Few win every single competition.

What are the characteristics of the journey to become a global champion?

  • There are fundamental differences between the team, the trainers, and the coaches. g. great coaches are rarely great athletes and great athletes are rarely great coaches.
  • It takes time to become a global champion.
  • People must have the ability to transform themselves, to learn, unlearn, and constantly improve.
  • No one stays a global champion forever.
  • The coaches and trainers change over time. Global champions are supported by trainers and coaches that are also the best in the world.
  • People need to have the potential to reach the next level. People don’t immediately jump to become global champions.
  • Not everyone will become a global champion. It is very competitive. Not everyone has the potential.
  • Very tiny changes in results differentiate global champions from 4th It could be a few hundredths of a second for an athlete.
  • Trying very hard, by itself, is not enough to become a global champion.
  • Luck also plays a role e.g. a leading coach becomes available; a competitor suffers an injury.

What are the three types of talent in your company?

  • The team is comprised of all of the company’s full and part-time employees. This includes everyone from the board of directors to front line staff.  The company is constantly developing the talent of its employees.
  • The trainers include external experts. (e.g. lawyers, accountants, consultants who are industry and functional experts), educational organizations, etc.
  • The coaches go by many names e.g. coach, strategic advisor, mentor.

What are the implications for you and your company?

  • In today’s virtual global economy, you may be competing against global champions, even if you’re in a local market. E.g. Nigeria’s largest ride sharing company is Bolt, based in Estonia, with a valuation of $4.3 billion.
  • It’s hard to become a global champion if your talent (team, trainers, and coaches) is not among the best in the world.
  • Talent around the world is constantly improving. The talent that was successful 20 years ago loses to today’s talent.
  • Growing the value of your company requires growing the value of your talent.

What are your next steps?

  • What is your company’s value creation plan: for the next 1-3 years; for the next 4-6 years?
  • What are the three types of talent you will need in the future?
  • What changes in talent are needed?
  • What is your ongoing process for acquiring, retaining, developing, and exiting your team talent?
  • What is your ongoing process for assessing and changing your training and coaching talent?

 Footnotes

1 Peter Jensen (Olympic coach), Igniting the third factor, Toronto, Performance Coaching Inc., 2008, page 105

How can the shareholders agreement focus everyone on value? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

This article discusses how a shareholders agreement in a private company could help focus everyone on value creation and extraction.

I am not providing legal advice. Please consult a lawyer if you need legal advice on creating, reviewing, or updating a shareholders agreement or other legal governance documents.

You can download a PDF of this article from: How can the shareholders agreement focus everyone on value V2

What are two types of shareholders agreements

#1 USA (Unanimous Shareholder Agreement)

“The written agreement among all of the shareholders of the corporation can wholly or partly restrict the powers of the directors to manage, or supervise the management of the business and the affairs of the corporation”1

#2 Voting trust or pooling agreement

“Some shareholders of a corporation may choose to enter into voting arrangements such as voting trusts, pooling agreements or shareholder agreements under which they agree to vote their shares in a consistent manner.  Voting arrangement of this sort….do not have the effect of reducing the powers and liabilities of directors”1

What are some potential shareholder expectations regarding their investment?

  • limiting some decisions to only the shareholders e.g. hiring, termination, and compensation of the CEO; sale or wind down of the company; terms and conditions of future financing.
  • requiring shareholder approval of various documents: e.g. Board of directors mandate, board committee mandates, company policies, strategic plan, budget.
  • defining the process used by the shareholders to make the above decisions and approvals.
  • defining what information needs to be reported to shareholders at what time and in what format.
  • constraining the business e.g. limit geographical operations, which products and services may or may not be provided, pricing.
  • defining the process and constraints for shareholders to sell their equity.
  • defining the dispute resolution process. This process could result in a forced sale of shareholder equity.
  • describing the ways specific shareholders extract value from the company e.g. dividends; products and services; future sale of shareholder equity.
  • describing how shareholders will support the company e.g. introductions; financing guarantees.

The shareholders may have other expectations as well e.g. the purpose of the company

Some or all of the above expectations might be included in the USA.

How might the USA impact on value creation and value extraction?

I assume the company has a value creation plan and the shareholders have a value extraction plan.  The plans can be directed and constrained by shareholder expectations which are in the USA.

What are the risks of not documenting the shareholder expectations?

The short-term risk is a series of immediate disputes, which could harm both value creation and extraction.  For example, what if the shareholders don’t understand and agree that some shareholder will extract value through low-priced products and services while other shareholders extract value through dividends arising from high priced services to customers. How will management create and execute strategies when they are attempting to limit profits and grow profits at the exact same time?

The long-term risk is that shareholder expectations could change, especially when shareholders are companies.  The companies’ strategies for their investment could change and new executives representing the companies could have different expectations.

What are your next steps?

  • Shareholders should discuss and document their expectations regarding value creation and value extraction. Agreement and consensus are not always required.
  • The challenge is to figure out how to reconcile conflicting expectations. (e.g. one founding shareholder might want to stay with the company for the rest of her life.  Another founding shareholder might want to exit and sell her equity in 5 years for maximum value). This expectation setting process is carried out without lawyers and there is no legal document as an outcome.
  • Then lawyers review the shareholder expectations document. The lawyers point out potential issues and risks, which may result in further shareholder negotiations regarding expectations.  The shareholders decide among the legal options.
  • I assume that the USA will be one of the selected options. The lawyers must craft this.  The process of creating the legal USA may well results in more issues, requiring a negotiated update to the shareholder expectations document.
  • The lawyers will have to craft a dispute resolution process into the USA which is able to deal with future changes of shareholder expectations. Potential outcomes of dispute resolutions include: sale of the company, existing shareholders buying out some other shareholders.
  • The shareholder expectations document needs to reviewed on a regular basis and must be reviewed every time there is a potential new shareholder or change to an existing shareholder.

Footnotes

1 Barry Reiter, Bennett Jones LLP, Directors Duties in Canada, 5th edition, Page 95

Further reading

How can founders and investors create a shareholders agreement?

https://koorandassociates.org/corporate-governance/how-can-founders-and-investors-create-a-shareholders-agreement/

What is the purpose of your company?

Purpose of this article

This article enables the board of directors and C-Suite to begin the discussion regarding company purpose.

You may download a PDF of this article from: https://koorandassociates.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/what-is-the-purpose-of-your-company.pdf

What is purpose?

Purpose answers the question: Why does the company exist?

  • Without cash paying customers, the company does not exist. One aspect of purpose is to address the problems and needs of cash paying customers who are able to and choose to buy the company’s solution.
  • The company also impacts other stakeholders in its ecosystem which includes overall society. This may include providing value to them and extracting value from them. The stakeholders can also impact the value of the company. Some stakeholders may deny the company its social license to operate.
  • What society needs does the company meet?
  • Why should employees work for the company?

What are some perspectives regarding purpose?

  • Only 7% of Fortune 500 CEO’s believe their companies should mainly focus on making profits.1
  • The top two employee priorities in a McKinsey survey were: contributing to society and creating meaningful work. These priorities were the focus of only 21% and 11% of respective company purpose statements.1
  • Larry Fink, in his 2018 letter to CEOs, said “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate…..Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential…..And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors.”2
  • U.S. Business Roundtable in 1981 “Corporations have a responsibility, first of all, to make available to the public quality goods and services at fair prices, thereby earning a profit that attracts investment to continue and enhance the enterprise, provide jobs, and build the economy.” “Business and society have a symbiotic relationship: The long-term viability of the corporation depends upon its responsibility to the society of which it is a part. The well-being of society also depends upon profitable and responsible business enterprises.”4

What is the value of purpose

Boston Consulting Group analysis revealed that the majority of companies with high purpose scores achieved above median long-term total shareholder returns.  The majority of companies with low purpose scores achieved below median long-term shareholder returns.3

What are the challenges of gaining value from purpose?

  • Company purposes may be “…little more than catchy slogans and posers….so generic they could apply to just about any company….”4
  • There are different legal and regulatory requirements around the world. e.g. The UK Corporate Governance Code states: “To succeed in the long-term, directors and the companies they lead need to build and maintain successful relationships with a wide range of stakeholders. These relationships will be successful and enduring if they are based on respect, trust and mutual benefit.” “A successful company is led by an effective and entrepreneurial board, whose role is to promote the long-term sustainable success of the company, generating value for shareholders and contributing to wider society.” “ The board should establish the company’s purpose, values and strategy……”
  • What to do the legal and regulatory requirements actually mean when it comes to decision making by the board of directors and officers? The Further Reading section below has the “duty of care of directors and officers” from the Canada Business Corporations Act.
  • There may be multiple purposes for a multi-national or multi-business unit companies.
  • In a private company, the shareholders agreement may restrict a number of key decisions to the shareholders rather than the board of directors or C-Suite.
  • Stakeholders may have different perceptions of what is value and how the company should allocate this value among stakeholders. It may not be possible to meet the expectations of all stakeholders.  There could be situations where a company decision or action does not satisfy any stakeholder.

How does a defined purpose enable a board of directors and C-Suite make difficult decisions?

The following are just a few examples of difficult decisions:

  • Should employees be paid a living wage e.g. live above the poverty line in their community?
  • What should the employer in a single company town do when the plant is not meeting profit objectives, and the middle aged work-force has no other options for employment?
  • How much employment should be shifted to lower paid off shore staff?
  • How much work should be done by lower cost contractors rather than employees?
  • How should the companies profit be allocated among: employees, C-Suite, and shareholders?
  • Should the company be lobbying the government to change laws to reduce the companies taxes or reduce environmental standards?
  • Should the company be structured to minimize or eliminate taxes?
  • etc.

Purpose is tied to values, morals, and ethics

The decision making and behaviour of the board of directors and C-Suite reflects both purpose and their values morals, and ethics.

 What are your next steps?

  • Identify the stakeholders. Interview and survey stakeholders to determine how they perceive the company’s purpose, values, morals, and ethics. How do stakeholders perceive the company relative to other companies?  How has this perception impacted stakeholder actions?
  • Collect the currently documented purpose, values, morals, and ethics. Where do the board of directors agree and disagree on these?
  • Analyze key historical decisions of the board and CEO to identify the degree to which they demonstrated purpose, values, morals, and ethics. How do the historical decisions and behaviours of the board support the purpose, values, and morals.
  • Create your own list of difficult decisions. Discuss how each board director and C-Suite member would make each decision.

Footnotes

1 Purpose: Shifting from why to how, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2020

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/purpose-shifting-from-why-to-how

2 https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/2018-larry-fink-ceo-letter

3 Ralph Gomory and Richard Sylla, “The American Corporation”, April 2013, page 6, The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/50b74ca9c91e6TheAmericanCorporation11292012.doc.pdf

4 Purpose with the power to transform your organization, Boston Consulting Group, May 2017

https://www.bcg.com/en-ca/publications/2017/transformation-behavior-culture-purpose-power-transform-organization

5 UK Governance Code 2018

https://www.frc.org.uk/getattachment/88bd8c45-50ea-4841-95b0-d2f4f48069a2/2018-UK-Corporate-Governance-Code-FINAL.pdf

Further reading

 Canada Business Corporations Act – 2021 Jan 28 Duty of care of directors and officers

122 (1) Every director and officer of a corporation in exercising their powers and discharging their duties shall

(a) act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the corporation; and

(b) exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.

 Best interests of the corporation

(1.1) When acting with a view to the best interests of the corporation under paragraph (1)(a), the directors and officers of the corporation may consider, but are not limited to, the following factors:

(a) the interests of

(i) shareholders,

(ii) employees,

(iii) retirees and pensioners,

(iv) creditors,

(v) consumers, and

(vi) governments;

(b) the environment; and

(c) the long-term interests of the corporation.