Monday, July 21, 2008
It's been announced that I have joined the board of JDS Uniphase today - and several people have asked me why? I am already on the board of Rambus, and I have a full time job as the CEO of FirstRain, not to mention my family and my growing interest in triathlons.
The decision to join a public company board is a big one. It's a big responsibility as you take on the interests of the shareholders and it carries liability as you are accountable to all and any who choose to challenge the actions of the board. It should also be educational and rewarding - but it is not a decision I took on lightly.
There are two primary reasons that JDSU was of interest to me:
First - the company and it's stage interested me. JDSU was a high-flyer (some would say hyped) in the dot.com era. Valued on bubble potential, not on financial fundamentals. It's taken many years and a great deal of hard work from the management team to bring the company into line on fundamentals. It's now a portfolio company, not in a single market, and there is real potential to grow the top line and financial metrics - and as a result sustainable growth in shareholder value.
I developed great respect for the CEO, Kevin Kennedy, while he was the Chairman of Rambus. When he and the JDSU board Chair, Marty Kaplan, approached me about the board seat I was not certain how I would be able to add value. I am a software CEO, with a background in marketing, not optical components, and currently engaged with customer bases who are the institutional investor and the CMO. But the more I talked with them about the new JDSU, and the positioning, marketing and strategy opportunities, the more intrigued I became and the more I felt that I could be of service.
Second - I want to be as good a CEO as I can be. Running FirstRain, or for that matter my last company Simplex, it is easy to get caught up in the weeds of my own company's (or my own) issues. So wrapped up in the day-to-day challenges that I lose perspective.
However, when I am involved in another company, especially a public one with all the strategy and governance issues that come up, it makes me think in ways that make me a better CEO for FirstRain. It's not obvious how this happens, but it does. For example, I work on executive and employee compensation issues as chair of the compensation committee at Rambus that expand my thinking, challenge my assumptions and cause me to step back and look at my own compensation plans. Or I am continuously educated on good corporate governance and what that means, even for a small company. Or listening to other board members input on strategy can shake me out of my narrow world and stimulate new ideas. The conversations and ideas that stretch me in my director role directly stretch me as FirstRain's CEO.
I'm excited by the challenge, and committed to being an excellent director - and to weaving this responsibility into my life in a way that enriches FirstRain, Rambus and JDSU. And two public boards is enough.