Best Practices

Questions to ask before becoming a private company director. 

An invitation to serve on a board of directors of a private corporation can be an interesting, even flattering opportunity. 


Independent board members can quell family business disputes by reminding family directors to ‘wear the right hat’ in the boardroom. 

Chris Vernon, fourth-generation president and CEO of The Vernon Company in Newton, Iowa, has an immediate response if his siblings request a raise: “Write it up, present it to me, and then I’ll present it to the compensation committee for you.”


Good governance can filter out the noise & unearth real opportunities. 

It’s hard to go a day with out blockchain, cybersecurity or artificial intelligence making headlines as business disrupters, and it’s got many private company owners and managers focused on technology more than ever.


A few years ago, Milton Rock, my grandfather and the longtime publisher of Directors & Boards magazine, was asked what was the best day of his life and without hesitation replied: “tomorrow.”

Earlier this year, he passed away at the age of 96. He was a remarkable man of exceptional vision who, as managing partner of the Hay Group, helped to transform and professionalize corporate governance. (Today, Hay is part of Korn Ferry.) For someone who accomplished so many great things, he never dwelt on the past, but always faced the future. 


They can boost the bottom line, bring ‘emotional intelligence’ to the boardroom. 

The slow pace of women heading to the nation’s private company boardrooms mirrors the sluggish rate at public companies. That’s bad news because experts say women now entering the world of governance offer more than ever before.


A Q&A with Julia Klein, CEO of a major privately held firm and veteran private company board member. 


By Barbara Spector

Private and family-owned companies are the backbone of the American economy, and their prosperity drives the country’s fiscal health.

By Jennifer Muntz and Andrew Keyt

Our natural tendency is to surround ourselves with people whose backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints are similar to ours. But in order to achieve the true power of a board of directors, you must take a different approach when considering director candidates.

Getting family members to embrace an independent advisory board can be an uphill battle, so broaching the subject takes diplomacy and good timing.

Mike Kiolbassa, president of the smoked meat business Kiolbassa Provision Company, Inc., struggled to convince his family that creating an independent board was good for the future.

“It was a 68-year-old company,” he explains. “My dad was there 50 years, me for 30 years. They said, ‘Why? Are we going to lose control? Does this cede our control?’”


Creating the best private company board comes down to making room for independent voices, innovative compensation ideas and a clear view to the future, says Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, CEO of Nia Enterprises, who sits on public and private boards.

“The first thing you have to ask yourself is do you believe in governance,” stresses McKissack, director for the Donnelley Foundation and Founders First Capital Partners, LLC.