The following is from a speech CEO Larry Siff made to Stybel Peabody

Begin with the role of the Board:

  • Strategy, Strategy, Strategy-50% plus of the time
  • Advise the CEO on the most critical issues to work on and ensure that they relate to the overall long term strategy
  • Encourage honesty and objectivity from the management team and board
  • Ask the CEO what information the board needs to see on a regular basis and how it should be presented
  • Support/change the CEO. If support, give the CEO all of the tools needed to succeed
  • Catalysts for long term success and willingness to take educated, calculated risks to create long-term value
  • Embrace mistakes but learn from them

Questions to ask the CEO about the competition:

  • What is your company’s value add and how and why is it different from your competitors?
  • Do you have a SWOT analysis or a Product Matrix chart comparing your product/service with your competition?
  • What does the competition do better than us? (testing new products, faster to market, better customer service, higher margins)
  • Who are the market leaders? Up and comers? Who are in the same boat as us?
  • How and why do the competitors win bids that we lose?
  • What should we know about the competition?
  • Discussion at too high a level
  • Competitors are dismissed as immaterial
  • Materials not sent out a minimum of 5 days in advance
  • Board presentations reading the power points
  • Boards are victims of what the management wants to share
  • Limited time so can’t discuss strategy
  • Insular about the business
  • Competition is only discussed during compensation time
  • Data Dumps-"Sloppy Joes"-you have to pick it up and figure how to eat it

Ideas to understand the competition:

  • Board meetings at a trade show
  • Board meetings at a manufacturing plant
  • Board meetings at a company recently acquired
  • Google alerts on the company and competitors
  • Marketing teams present competitive analysis quarterly
  • Management provides recaps of trade periodicals & analyst reports
  • Sales Force presents a competitive analysis quarterly
  • Spend time on the front line