Six suggestions for globalizing your board.

Author:Johnson, David W.

Ed. Note: David W. Johnson, a charismatic former leader of Campbell Soup Co., passed away on June 19, 2016, at the age of 83. He was president and CEO of the company from 1990 until 1997 and again from March 2000 to January 2001. He also served as chairman of the Campbell Soup board from 1993 to 1999. He was a native Australian, which is perhaps why the topic of "Globalizing Your Board" resonated with him--that was the title of the article that he authored for Directors & Boards in 1996. An excerpt from the article follows.

Overseas markets have never looked so promising. Opportunities for growth outstrip those available in the United States. Today, however, more than 80% of U.S. boards consist entirely of U.S. citizens. Of companies that have foreign directors, most have only one; and most of those directors come from mature, industrialized, Western (and usually English-speaking) economies--typically not representing where the best business opportunities may be found. Overseas companies are no different: few have directors who are not citizens of the home country.

Given the brimming opportunity and the urgent priority now being accorded to globalization, why is this so? What, if anything, can or should be done about it?

The "contract" with an overseas director must be innovative and it must differ from that for a "local" director. I offer six suggestions, all of which have been applied in my own boardroom:

* Involve the entire board in setting expectations.

* Agree on a specific number of board meetings per year (perhaps 50%) that the foreign director will attend in person.

* Specify certain meetings--such as the annual meeting of shareholders and the meeting to review strategic plans--that will be attended in person.

* Consider moving meetings of the board to...

To continue reading