JANET KERR, Director, La-Z-Boy, Inc., Tilly's, Inc., AppFolio. Vice-Chancellor of Pepperdine University and Professor Emeritus of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law
What was your first corporate board seat appointment and how did that come about?
My first board was Carl's Jr./ Hardee's. I was teaching corporate law at Pepperdine University law school and there was a student in my class who was the son of the CEO of the company. He wanted to know if I could have lunch with him and his father which I did and it was through that encounter that I eventually received an offer to be on the board. It was my background in corporate governance that was of interest to the company at the time since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act had just been passed and I had been essentially teaching corporate governance for over 20 years.
You have such a unique background for a director. How do you think being an entrepreneur and a law professor helped or hindered your journey to the boardroom?
Being an entrepreneur definitely helped. I founded one of the first-ever centers for entrepreneurship in a law school in 2000 and have also founded and/or developed six technology companies over the last 21 years, ranging in technologies from AR [augmented reality], VR [virtual reality], microelectronics, and data mining and analytics. The last, a data analytics company, sold to Bloomberg BNA. The combination of teaching law and being an entrepreneur mixes both business and law together in a complimentary skill set.
How does your law background inform what you do as a director?
I basically taught corporate governance for 30 years. Teaching law school in the corporate field provided a platform of knowledge in many areas besides governance such as securities regulation, finance, compliance, risk analysis, shareholder activism, ESG [environmental, social, governance], M&A, among others. My business background added a realistic respective--real-life experience in being in the trenches and creating value to businesses while still having an eye on legal ramifications.
What do you think corporate leaders can learn from startups when it comes to strategic planning?
Every business no matter what size has started as a start-up. It's essential for boards and management to study those companies that have gone from a successful start-up to a successful lasting business, identifying key core values and strategies that have made these companies great businesses. Elasticity and continued...