Most Public Company Boards Conduct Full-Board Evaluations and Find Them Effective

What_directors_think PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Corporate Board Member recently released their sixth annual survey of directors of public companies, which aggregates responses from over 1,000 corporate directors on a variety of important issues. 

First, some interesting statistics from What Directors Think 2007:

How many people actually serve on public company boards of directors?  At the end of 2007, directors on U.S. corporate boards totaled 48,950 from 5,772 public companies. 

Of this total,  66% hold only one board seat– a result which certainly surprised me and is unheard of among the multiple-board seat VC  community.

Women occupy 4,544 board seats, or 9.3% of the total.  Out of a total of 5.341 board chairmen, 49% are insider chairmen and 51% are outside chairmen– a ratio that holds across revenue size categories.

The survey also revealed some very useful information on Corporate Governance–

Respondents rated the following Top Five hallmarks of good governance, in order of priority:

(1) The board holds regular executive sessions without the CEO;

(2) The board is composed mostly of independent directors;

(3) The board or a committee conducts regular, formal CEO performance reviews;

(4) The company has a formal management succession process in place;

(5) The board evaluates both whole-board and director performance.

As a VC, I feel strongly that numbers (1), (3), and (5) above are entirely applicable to VC-backed companies and should be high priorities for VC directors.

In 2007, 88% of public boards conducted a full-board performance evaluation on a regular basis, up from 33% in 2002– 78% of respondent companies listed on NASDAQ do so even though this is not a NASDAQ requirement.

Only 57% of directors characteriz their board’s evaluation process  as effective or very effective– leaving 38% saying it is somewhat effective and 5% saying it is ineffective.  The authors conclude that "these results show many boards are not maximizing the usefulness of this process which, among other things, directors have told us can improve board communication, provide focus for board and management recruitment efforts, and identify ways to streamline board processes to make the best use of directors’ time."

Private company directors should follow this increasing trend toward board and director performance evaluation in far greater numbers– for more on how VC companies should apply best practices to approach these issues, go to to review material prepared by the Working Group on Director Accountability and Board Effectiveness.

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