Earthbound Farm Organic - New Organic BlendsAll your grape needs in one placeBringing organic & conventional grower partnerships to market

What Keeps a Board Member Up at Night?

What keeps a Board Member up at night? Plenty. And for good reason. So many of today’s headlines read something like, “CEO Departures Hit Record High.” Between January 1 and August 31 of this year, 1,009 Chief Executives have tendered their resignations. Fortune Magazine has called 2019 “the Year of the CEO Exodus.” Today’s CEO turnover is higher than it was during the 2008 recession and the average tenure is dropping.

Julie Krivanek, President, Krivanek ConsultingEven more challenging, however, is the fact that businesses are facing a tsunami of trends that will mean a different reality for the future. We are seeing unprecedented changes in technology, automation, digital platforms, AI, consumer demands, and an entirely new generation coming into power and participation. Boards are struggling with the complexity of balancing long-term value, targeted growth, and capital allocation and risk appetite in this environment—all while trying to articulate a “blueprint for the future,” a.k.a a strategic plan.

Let’s think about the role of a Board and then look at the pinnacle of Board contribution—the creation of a vision for the entity along with a plan that charts a clear path forward.

In general terms, a Board is the decision-making and governing body of a corporation. They are expected to:

  1. Increase the value of the business
  2. Evaluate the CEO, including future succession
  3. Grapple with strategic decisions that lead to a profitable future

Boards come in all shapes and sizes, but the best ones have a core of commitment and competency that takes a business to new and lofty heights. The worst ones fall into the traps of mechanical and habitual behaviors; focus excessively on tactics and the short term; burden the CEO and staff with meeting preparation and presentation; and stay too long at the party, preventing fresh thinking from re-energizing the organization.


JULIE KRIVANEK, President, Krivanek Consulting

When my clients are challenged, I am too. And if you are on a Board, here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Stay in your lane. Leave the annual operating plans and budgets up to the CEO. Your contribution is much more important than short-term tactics. If a CEO struggles with next year’s deliverables, you’re dealing with a very different problem.
  2. Co-create the vision with your CEO, including clear and complete alignment on what the ideal future looks like. Once you get that, everything else is a detail. If you don’t get that, everything else is a debate.
  3. Get your hands dirty. If a Board is detached from the planning process, they nitpick, focus on minutiae, and send the Executive team spinning as they try to “get it right.”
  4. Be ruthless in focus and prioritization. I’ve served on and consulted for public, private, and nonprofit Boards—in industries including energy, high tech, communications, and fresh food—from small- and mid- to large-sized companies. I’ve taken time-tested concepts from these years of experience to lead Board clients in a two-day intensive that covers vision, trends, competitive distinction, a “priority matrix” for investment opportunities, and the key goals that spell success in the year to come.

Having seen firsthand the brilliance that comes when Boards and executives create the future together, I remain very optimistic for what lies ahead as we get ready to close out this year of executive churn and economic curveballs. Here’s to launching a new decade in the produce industry and to successful strategies ahead.

Contributing Author

Julie Krivanek is a strategic plan and process advisor to Boards, CEOs, and Executives in the fresh food and produce industries. She also serves on advisory boards and is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors.