Photo by Jason Wold
“I don’t believe in sugarcoating,” Frécon says of her board work. She serves on four corporate boards besides SimonDelivers’s.
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Christopher Brown had just accepted the CEO position at SimonDelivers, Inc., when Leslie Frécon, one of the company’s board members, invited him out to lunch.
“I truly treasured the day,” recalls Brown, who joined the New Hope–based online grocer in September 2003. “Sure, I had already signed on at this time. But Leslie laid it all on the table for me. She told me the good, the great, the bad, the ugly. She made sure I knew what was reality, backed by fact; what her beliefs were; and what her concerns were. She could not have articulated the situation in more detail for me.”
It’s the kind of honesty and commitment that Brown has come to expect from Frécon, the founder and CEO of LFE Capital, a Minneapolis-based private-equity investment management firm. “Board members rely on management to fully and honestly disclose to them what’s going on in the company,” says Frécon, who joined the SimonDelivers board in January 2002, after LFE Capital invested in the company. “The minimum we can do as board members is to be honest with them.” Frécon chairs the board’s finance committee.
Brown says that Frécon’s food-industry background and her experience working with emerging companies has helped SimonDelivers maintain its footing in the home-delivery grocery industry, whose landscape is littered with failed start-ups. He also lauds her enthusiasm for the business. “People who know Leslie know she is a strong leader,” Brown says. “If she feels strongly about a certain perspective, you can rest assured that she’ll get her point across. And I say that with great respect.”
Frécon, who grew up in Minneapolis’s western suburbs, did her undergraduate work at Stanford University and earned an MBA from UCLA in 1978. She started her professional career at Bank of America in Los Angeles, where she was a corporate banking officer, before joining General Mills in 1981. After nearly 17 years and several promotions at Big G—her last title was senior vice president of corporate finance—Frécon launched LFE Capital. She has focused much of her firm’s attention on businesses owned or operated by women, or those that target predominantly female consumers, such as SimonDelivers.
“One out of every 11 women owns her own business,” Frécon says. “I saw this as a huge opportunity to leverage my network of businesses and women, to serve an underserved market, and to expand our deal flow and attract deals that other funds don’t see.”
During her 20 years serving on boards (for both nonprofit and for-profit entities), she has come to believe that a good board is “not beholden to the CEO or anyone else. It’s a group of people that, through their various backgrounds and experience, are able to challenge the CEO to think more broadly.”