DIRECTOR AS CUSTOMER
D&B: How many board meetings do you attend a year? How much time do you estimate you spend outside the boardroom, patronizing the companies where you sit on boards?
MW: The total number of board meetings a year varies based on what is happening with each company: some meet as infrequently as four times a year while others meet 8-10, so I probably spent close to 50 days a year attending board meetings in person or by phone. I probably spend another 45 days a year on committee work and another 60 days on patronizing the companies.
Why do you feel it's important to spend time out in the field, checking out what companies are doing ? What are you looking for? What are positive signs and what are warning signs?
I believe "experiencing" what customers experience is good for board members. It also helps me understand the culture of the company by watching employees or company representatives in action and personally interacting with them. I look for positive attitudes, going the extra mile, the inventory management if applicable, pride of work, and customer moments of truth.
Can you provide an example or two of something you found going out into companies and exploring on your own--maybe something you learned that you knew nothing about?
In shopping at Costco, I learned about end cap placements and the "treasure hunt" in the center of the store; how a percentage of inventory is "one time" and "regional" and the rest is national or international. I also learned how regional locations will trial a product before it is rolled out to all locations--or not. With Lyft, I always ask drivers what they like about driving for Lyft and where improvements can be made. 1 always get nuggets on improving what we do and how we do it--like app enhancements drivers like to see; Lyft treats drivers well and Lyft drivers like their independence to work whenever they want and wherever they want.
Do you spend time speaking with employees? Why is that important?
Yes! For the consumer-facing companies, I don't tell employees I am on the board; I just say: "Flow do you like working for Costco?" or "Flow do you like driving for Lyft?" For B-to-B companies like DocuSign, Cadence and HPE, I ask employees how long they have been with the company; if there was one piece of constructive feedback they...