Dueling Perspectives: Bill Hudson and Lynn Clarke
Serving as an independent director
William A. (Bill) Hudson serves as president, international in his family business, H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Company, which makes and distributes sprayers to protect against insects, weeds and plant diseases. He’s also chairman of Sasser Family Holdings, a transportation services asset services and management company, and has served on other family business boards.
Lynn Clarke, a former executive at PepsiCo and General Mills and CEO at two private equity-owned companies as well as her own e-commerce business, doesn’t come from a business family and has never been at an employee at a family firm. But she has served on seven family company boards and is currently chairman of Nielsen-Massey, a 100-year-old vanilla and flavorings company.
We asked Hudson and Clarke: What appeals to you about being an independent director on a family business board?
“When you’re participating on a board of someone else’s family business, it’s easier, I think, to make dispassionate decisions and to more clearly enter into discussion/debate with other board members.
“In my own family business, I have such an emotional attachment to the 114 years of legacy and all that that entails, and such a detailed knowledge of the inner workings of what’s going on in the business, that it makes it more difficult to really step back. That’s why it’s so important, I think, for family businesses to have independent directors.
“I have a strong appreciation that family business is a driver of the U.S. economy. And the differences between a good family business and a great family business can be seen, I think, in how the governance structure is set up and how boards work with management to advance the firm faster. The other thing that I like about family business is the ability to think long-term as opposed to quarter to quarter. Because as a board, you can really engage in some more meaningful value-added initiatives.”
“I serve on boards for three reasons.
"First, I am intellectually stimulated by helping businesses to grow, which is why I serve on boards of all types. Seeing how companies in all industries address their challenges also makes me a better leader.
“Second, I appreciate being part of making a difference in generational transitions. Helping people who are less experienced than me to become better managers and better businesspeople is a privilege and challenge.
“Finally, so much of the success of the United States has been driven by entrepreneurs who have built family businesses. To be able to participate in that part of the economy and to help perpetuate strong family businesses is personally rewarding. I bring the best practices from two Fortune 50 companies to smaller organizations to help them grow and prosper.
“My view is that 85% to 90% of issues and opportunities are the same across all industries. I make a difference because I can combine the experience from being on boards in many industries with the ‘secret sauce’ of each company to build lasting success.”
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