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Topic: Family Business Boards
Speakers: Craig Aronoff, Stephanie Brun de Pontet, Jennifer Pendergast
Profiles of speakers:


Moderator: Donald Levitt

Participating Locations:
  • Prairie Family Business Association
  • Stetson University
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Massachusetts -- Amherst
  • University of Vermont

Pre-read: Chapters 7 and 8 from Building a Successful Family Business Board: A Guide for Leaders, Directors, and Families by Jennifer M. Pendergast, John L. Ward, and Stephanie Brun de Pontet.

Section One

Board Readiness: Family Enterprises that seek to build an independent BOD will want to be sure they are ready and able to set up their first board for success. Our experts will discuss what roadblocks need to be overcome, how to get the whole family "on board" and steps and strategies for board composition and gaining a clear sense of individual roles on the board.

Craig Aronoff: Six Requirements for Successful Boards
  1. Ownership commitment to creating an excellent board.
  2. Recognize the difference between ownership and management.
  3. Recognize that it is the responsibility of ownership to secure excellent management.
  4. Ownership must articulate family values and goals regarding profitability, risk, growth, etc.
  5. Develop a clear, shared understanding of the qualifications for board membership.
  6. Determine the role of family members on the board.

Listen to Craig Aronoff describe these six requirements (7:50)



Section One Questions and Answers (16:44)
  • Advisory board versus legal board
  • Family members in multiple roles as both owners and managers
  • Periodic board evaluations
  • Use of paid advisors on the board
  • Number of board members
  • Compensation of board members


Section Two

The Board and the Family Business System: Where do the BOD and the family interact? Participants will learn the appropriate intersection of the board and family system as well as how the systems should interact and communicate their needs across the governance bodies.

Stephanie Brun de Pontet
  • All family members need to be "on-board" regarding having a board.
  • The family can be coached to be successful in their interactions with the board.
  • Clarify expectations regarding family contact with board members.
  • When non-board members can attend board meetings.
  • Communication structures between the family and the board.

Listen to Stephanie Brun de Pontet's presentation (10:13)



Section Two Questions and Answers (17:43)
  • Size of family or business as consideration when deciding between legal versus advisory board.
  • Generation of the family business as consideration when deciding between legal versus advisory board.
  • Routine executive sessions of the board (i.e., without certain board members).
  • Assuring that family members feel heard by the board.


Section Three

Getting the Board Meeting Right:
  • set the right boardroom culture
  • put together a strategic agenda
  • prepare the right materials for the board members
  • prepare management for useful BOD presentation.

Jennifer Pendergast
  • Preparing for the board meeting
  • Orientation to the board and to the business
  • Build the board as a team
  • Set expectations regarding how the board is managed
  • Send out materials in advance
  • Board members be prepared for board meetings, e.g., "How can I add specific value to this meeting?

  • The board meeting itself
  • Have the right agenda and the right presentations
  • Routine annual calendar with same key topics each year
  • Chair be sure to get critical issues in front of the board
  • Assure that management presentations are substantive
  • Family board members fully prepared and fully participating
  • Role of executive sessions

  • Outside of the board meeting
  • On-going education of board, e.g., regarding industry
  • Train regarding the role of the board member
  • Board members interface with the business, e.g., visit locations.
Listen to Jennifer Pendergast's presentation (18:20)


Section Three Questions and Answers (17:41)
  • Role of family CEO on the board
  • Owners aligned regarding sharing confidential data with the board
  • Formal and informal channels of communication between the family and the board
  • Selection of external board members depends upon the specific needs of the family business.


PFBA_Master_Class_photo_a_111103.jpg

Prairie Family Business Association participating in Master Class




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