When best practices (and Mini Coopers) backfire

Drew Mendoza
Drew Mendoza

A little knowledge can be dangerous – no matter how well intentioned.

The family member Chair was a regular face at the local university’s family business center events. She had heard a presentation about how having independent outside directors could be a powerful addition to the company’s competitive arsenal and be an equally powerful tool in managing shareholder relations. The presentation, delivered by an expert in the field with more than 20 years of experience, lasted three hours.

Bubbling with enthusiasm and new found energy, she entered the next board meeting a month later. Over the course of 10 minutes, she informed her cousin shareholders that what was most needed was the addition of three independent directors. She came to the meeting prepared with a slate of directors. The director slate presented would have been impressive to just about any other company in their space. Fantastic academic and career pedigrees, international experience, strengths in finance. In fact, the slate of directors were the equivalent of Indy 500 cars. By comparison, her cousins were Mini Coopers. (I mean no disparagement toward the Mini. I’m sure they’re fine little cars well made for in-city travel.)

Guess what happened next?

A fire storm erupted in the board room. The directors were taken off-guard, felt insulted and threatened. It took the chairwoman over a year to regain the board’s trust and educate the directors about the rationale of the changes she had proposed.

It’s one thing to understand best practices. It is another thing entirely to know how to educate and prepare an ever increasingly disparate shareholder group for change.


Today’s blog is inspired by and written in support of FBCG’s newly announced event, The Chair Forum. We invite family firm chairs to continue the conversation by joining us to share experiences, generate ideas and hone their skills at productive corporate governance. Click here to learn more>>

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