Wheelock Whitney, one of Minnesota’s most distinguished business and civic leaders, makes it very clear: “A director’s job is not to run the business.” Having spent many years as a board member himself, he knows whereof he speaks. “The management of the organization has to be in the hands of the people who work there, and the CEO is responsible for how they function as a management team.” Directors focus on how well that team has served the company, and they point to ways that it can improve its performance. This year’s Outstanding Directors honorees all demonstrate a profound understanding of the crucial role they play. They dig deep into the industries and markets in which the companies operate—in fact, they enjoy learning about other industries, and bring back what they’ve learned to their own businesses. They ask incisive questions of the company’s leadership. They often provide skills and insights that management can draw upon in running the company. What they don’t do is treat board meetings as networking opportunities or social functions. They care deeply about the success of the companies they serve, and they prepare for every meeting.
This is the 20th year that Twin Cities Business is honoring corporate directors in Minnesota. As always, the magazine worked with a remarkable group of judges: Linda Hall, entrepreneur in residence, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management; George Kehl, managing partner, KPMG Minneapolis; Mark W. Sheffert, chairman and CEO, Manchester Cos. Inc.; and Michael Vekich, president, National Association of Corporate Directors, Minnesota Chapter. They were joined by Dale Kurschner, editor-in-chief of Twin Cities Business.