RSR Partners Strengthens Capabilities with Kimberly Melcer

Greenwich, CT, March 1, 2023RSR Partners, a leading board recruiting and executive search firm, announced today that Kimberly Melcer has joined the firm to lead their Marketing & Digital practice. Kimberly specializes in identifying leaders with digital transformation capabilities across the C-Suite, and especially within the marketing function. She works with start-ups, privately held, and public organizations. She has extensive experience within the AdTech, MarTech, and broader consumer and marketing services industries.

Prior to joining RSR, Kimberly helped lead the Digital practice at Buffkin / Baker. She transitioned to executive recruiting following a marketing and merchandising career in the fashion industry, most recently serving as Vice President of Global Merchandising at Armani Exchange. She started her career in the Macy’s Buying Program and later led the marketing and merchandising team within the non-beauty business at Avon.

“Ability to drive technological and digital transformation is increasingly a skill our clients are looking for on their boards and their leadership teams,” stated Brett Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of RSR. “Kimberly’s experience deepens and enhances our ability to access the talent our clients need to be at the forefront of innovation. Kimberly is a fantastic addition to our team as we continue to build service offerings that complement our existing strengths and add value for our clients.”

“There are incredible opportunities for leaders who operate at the convergence of data, technology, and marketing,” said Kimberly, “and the MarTech and AdTech landscape continues to evolve and grow. I was attracted to RSR’s collaborative culture and entrepreneurial spirit, especially since this area of expertise is welcomed across the firm and interconnects with other C-Suite functions. I’m excited to be a part of the firm’s future and its continued success.”   

About RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1993 by industry icon and Chairman Emeritus, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Over the past 30 years, the firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity owned, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including consumer goods and services, financial services, healthcare, industrial, and technology. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076   

Perspectives From the Chair: Impact from the Universal Proxy Card

This article was originally published on LinkedIn here.

UPC Will Have Significant Impact on Boardroom Composition and Director Succession

Nelson Peltz is running for a seat on the Disney Board and Elliott Management is seeking seats on the Salesforce Board. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Both will be using the new SEC rule requiring Universal Proxy Card (UPC) for contested elections. Many observers believe the UPC will make it easier and less expensive to run an activist campaign to gain board seats. All nominees, both company and activist, are now on a single card and a shareholder can easily split their votes for the first time. Thus, shareholders can vote for one or more of the activist candidates. 

However, this new rule may assist in getting better alignment on the required skills and experiences that independent directors need to execute the company’s strategy, oversee the CEO’s performance, and build effective governance structures. With the UPC, shareholders will have a greater say on the board’s composition as they can more readily compare the board’s nominees with the activist slate and focus on existing performance gaps. In addition, some commentators say that Proxy Advisers will even be more influential as they will need to compare the board’s candidates with the activist candidates. 

The board’s independent chair/lead director and the Nom/Gov committee have the urgent task to address their most uncomfortable duty – asking directors to leave prior to retirement which now is often 75 years old. To avoid making an activist campaign personal to individual directors, the board needs “to avoid defaulting to renomination rather than undertaking tough decisions. (NACD: A Framework for Governing Into the Future report).”

What should nominating and governance committees do? 

One immediate solution is to consider expanding proxy director biographies with more specificity on why each director should be on the board.  The current skills matrix is often of no use as it does not specify the strength of the skills and experiences using a 1, 2 or 3 rating. Also, the committee should improve the board leadership, committee chairs, and individual director evaluations. These evaluations need more rigor on improving board performance. For example, look at long tenured directors and justify in the proxy their contributions and continued value serving on the board.  

From recent conversations with several notable Nom/Gov Chairs about how they are viewing the situation, the feedback has been consistent that it will have an impact on how boards view director succession and board recruiting in the future. The reaction is that boards will take less risk when adding director candidates and focus more on those who have overtly relevant industry or functional expertise. While we hope this will not have an impact on the recent boardroom trend for younger, more diverse, and outside-the-box candidates, we have our concerns.

For future board searches, the candidate success profile must be more granular on the skills and experiences required, and how candidates can impact board and committee leadership succession and improved board oversight.  Nom/Gov committees will need to have a strong grasp of the immediate and longer-term capability gaps that need to be addressed along with a sense of what the stakeholders expect to ensure there is no misalignment on future actions.

Activist shareholders have and always will use board composition as a trojan horse to ensure that their perspective and agenda is considered or acted upon in boardrooms.  The best defense for corporate boards is to ensure company performance is meeting or exceeding its industry peers. As the stakes continue to intensify, it is paramount for boards to move quickly on any lingering issues that will affect boardroom effectiveness. 

We would love to hear your perspective on the ripple effects of the UPC. Similar to the implementation of SOX, this story will be with us for the foreseeable future. As we have the past 30 years, we are here to help to boards navigate through changing tides. 

# # #

Greg Lau leads the Board Advisory Practice and Brett Stephens helps lead the Board & CEO Services at RSR Partners.

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The company was founded in 1993 by industry icon, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted more than 1,000 projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity backed, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including asset management, consumer goods and services, industrial, technology, and healthcare. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.

Reflections on an Impactful Year

Dear Clients and Friends,                                                                        

We appreciate your continued trust and support. Without the confidence of our valued, long-standing clients and friends, we would not be able to do what we love. As 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of RSR Partners, the new year presents an opportunity to share with you our reflections upon our firm and the marketplace.

In 1993, our Founder, Russ Reynolds, embarked on a journey to create a new firm that was distinct from his first, Russell Reynolds Associates. RSR Partners began as a small board advisory firm, initially well-regarded for its Directorship publication, which is now owned by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). Over time, our firm has grown and evolved to become one of the premier board recruiting and executive search firms engaged by boards and CEOs to advise them on their most important and sensitive search needs. We are unique in our boardroom vantage point, our ability to be selective, and access to the wisdom of an industry icon who acts as our beacon regarding what makes great leaders.

2022 was another productive and impactful year for our firm and our clients and candidates. While our board search and advisory practices continue to be the backbone of the firm, our C-Suite search expertise was utilized across a myriad of industries and situations. Additionally, the firm marked an important milestone this summer when Todd Ruppert seamlessly transitioned into the role of our Chairman, succeeding Russ Reynolds, who continues to provide us with advice and counsel. We were also excited to have Eric Douglas Keene and Dick Hoag join the firm to continue to strengthen the board and CEO services we provide for industrial, consumer, and financial services clients.

As most of our client engagements are confidential, complex, and highly sensitive, we are unable to publicly promote the details around these successes. That said, we are seeing not only an increased demand for our services, but also a growing demand for boards to enhance their capabilities and effectiveness, and for CEOs to address specific gaps in their leadership team.

Some recent examples include:

We see tremendous opportunity for leaders to rise to the occasion in these still uncertain times. Our society must continue to seek out and support individuals who have the potential to become great leaders, especially with an eye towards the diversity of thought that continues to shape our cultural fabric. Successful companies and communities are only created by having the right people, which continues to be our quest for our firm and for our clients.

We look forward to our anniversary this December with pride in our firm’s past and confidence in its future. In the event you have a sensitive board or executive search needs in the coming year, we would be happy to discuss the situation in confidence.

We wish you and your colleagues much success in 2023 and beyond.

Barrett J. Stephens
Chief Executive Officer 
O: +1 (203) 618-7022

Dick Hoag Joins RSR Partners

Greenwich, CT, November 8, 2022RSR Partners, a leading board and executive search firm, announced today that Richard (“Dick”) Hoag has joined the firm’s Asset Management practice as a Managing Director. Dick will focus on consulting and recruiting senior level C-suite, distribution, and board professionals to traditional and alternative global investment firms.

Throughout Dick’s 35-year career in the asset management industry, he has held various senior leadership positions that involved recruiting top talent and building teams. As a Senior Partner of Corinthian Cove Consulting, a strategic and tactical consulting firm, Dick advised asset managers on their growth and strategic initiatives, emphasizing the critical role that selecting talent plays in achieving their goals.

Prior to Corinthian Cove Consulting, Dick spent decades building and leading best-in-class financial services organizations. He was Managing Director and President of Landmark Global Partners (and its predecessor firm, Liontrust International-London) and group head for the North American Institutional business. Dick also served as a Managing Director and Co-Head of Institutional Sales and Client Service at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (BlackRock 2007) and was Executive Vice President and Managing Director of London-based Gartmore Global Partners, where he ran the U.S. Institutional business, and was a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and Mutual Fund Advisory Board. Dick is a past President and served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Investment Management Sales Executives (AIMSE) and is a recipient of their prestigious Richard A. Lothrop Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Dick brings a powerful combination of deep industry knowledge plus a strong consulting track record of helping asset management firms solve their most important strategic and leadership needs,” stated Brett Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of RSR. “Now more than ever, clients need the unique perspective Dick provides on what makes a firm successful in ever-changing environments and how they can build towards their aspirational future.”

Dick joins RSR following the firm’s recent announcement that founder and industry icon, Russ Reynolds, transitioned to a Chairman Emeritus role and was succeeded by Todd Ruppert as Non-Executive Chairman. Todd is RSR’s first independent chair. 

“Dick’s arrival reinforces our commitment to building our asset management practice,” said Todd, who also spent much of his career in investment management. “Dick joins a deep bench of experienced asset management consultants, and we are confident he will be a strong contributor to the firm’s culture of teamwork. His proven ability to find the best and brightest in the industry uniquely positions RSR to be at the forefront of identifying transformational leaders in the asset management space.”

“After three decades of hands-on experience developing talent at institutional financial services organizations, I look forward to bringing my expertise to RSR,” stated Dick. “The globalization and consolidation of firms continues to drive a demand for talent, and I look forward to providing clients the counsel needed to thrive in this dynamic and transitional market.”

About RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The company was founded in 1993 by industry icon and Chairman Emeritus, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Over the past 25 years, the firm has conducted more than 1,000 projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity owned, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including consumer goods and services, financial services, healthcare, industrial, and technology. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076   

Todd Ruppert Succeeds Russell Reynolds as Chairman of RSR Partners

Greenwich, CT., June 15, 2022RSR Partners, a leading board recruiting and executive search firm, announced today that its founder, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr., 90, will transition from Executive Chairman to Chairman Emeritus. Russ will be succeeded by R. Todd Ruppert as Non-Executive Chairman.

Russ has been a pioneer in the executive search profession for more than 50 years. He served as Chairman of RSR Partners, which he founded in 1993, for nearly 30 years. He previously served as CEO and Chairman of his eponymous firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, which he founded in 1969.

Todd, 66, has been a member of RSR Partners’ Advisory Board for many years. He is currently the founder and CEO of Ruppert International, a firm with diversified interests globally in various fields including strategy consulting, financial services, disruptive technologies, publishing, arts and entertainment, and education. He retired from T. Rowe Price, the global asset management firm, where he was CEO and president of T. Rowe Price Global Investment Services, co-president, T. Rowe Price International, and a member of the operating steering committee of the T. Rowe Price group. Todd is a board member of and advisor to numerous firms globally. He is also the president of London’s Royal Parks Foundation (USA) and a board member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Todd served as a board member of INSEAD Business School from 2012-2021.

Russ and Todd will be honored at the annual Directors Dinner hosted by RSR Partners on October 19, 2022.

Commenting on the transition, Brett Stephens, the CEO of RSR Partners, stated, “The impact Russ has had on the industry, our firm, and me is immeasurable. We are honored that he will remain on our board and that we can continue to access his expertise and insight on finding and selecting the next generation of leaders. Todd is a compelling successor considering his success as an investor and entrepreneur, his breadth of global experience, and his intimate knowledge of our firm. We are confident that Todd will be instrumental in helping to position the firm for the future.”

“It is my privilege to join RSR Partners at this pivotal moment for the firm and for the broader profession,” stated Todd. “In my own ventures and as a member of the firm’s Advisory Board, I have experienced first-hand the transformative impact leadership can have on an organization and have admiration and respect for the professionals who excel in this field. I share Russ’ inspiring passion for executive search. The firm has gained tremendous value from his long-term industry perspective. On behalf of the firm and the board, we thank Russ for his leadership and for his tremendous contribution to the legacy of the firm and to the executive search profession.”

About RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The company was founded in 1993 by industry icon, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted more than 1,000 projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity backed, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including asset management, consumer goods and services, industrial, technology, and healthcare. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076    

An Insider’s Guide to Board Recruiting for First-Time Candidates

This article was originally published by Corporate Board Member.

What first-time candidates need to know about the board recruiting process.

Over the last year, corporations have made tremendous efforts to diversify the composition and enhance the capabilities of their boards. As board recruiting strategies evolved to identify diverse and qualified talent, an increasing number of executives were exposed to the board recruiting process for the first time. In fact, 35% of new directors in the S&P 500 and 25% of new directors in the Russell 3,000 were first-time directors.

Board search firms like ours are now often coaching executives through the recruiting process since so many are unaware of the plethora of machinations and nuances involved at each step. There are certain actions that should be taken by the candidate during each step of the board recruiting process, from the moment a prospective candidate is notified of a board’s interest, through the interview process, and when a formal invitation to join a board is extended. We have witnessed many missteps due to unfamiliarity with the process and mistaken assumptions, which can impact a candidate’s credibility.

We’ve compiled our best advice into this roadmap to help first-time candidates navigate the board recruiting process to increase chances of success. If you are an aspiring public company director and have never been recruited to a board, this roadmap is for you.

#1: The Success Profile

Companies in the Fortune 1,000 generally retain a board search firm when they need to add a new director to their board. The reasons for recruiting a new director can vary. There may be an upcoming retirement, an unforeseen departure, the need to add specific experience or expertise, or a need to increase diversity.

In our experience, the board has a clear understanding of what specific skills and experience gaps it needs to address most of the time. However, sometimes the search firm will work closely with the chairperson, CEO, lead director, and chair of the nominating and governance committee to facilitate stakeholder feedback meetings to gather input on the ideal success profile. In many instances, the CHRO and even the General Counsel can play an important role, providing input, guidance, and direction. A board typically puts together a search committee of these key stakeholders.

Once the board search committee has agreed on the ideal skill matrix and professional and personal characteristics of potential candidates, the search firm develops an initial list of potential candidate ideas. The list can be quite extensive. Over the course of several weeks, and sometimes months, the board and the search firm will narrow down and prioritize the top candidates. This initial number can range anywhere from two to fifteen individuals for each open board seat. The search firm will then be authorized to approach those select prioritized candidates regarding the specific board opportunity.

#2: Evaluating Potential Opportunities

When a search firm first reaches out to you about a specific board opportunity, you should be aware that the firm and the board have already conducted an extensive amount of research, due diligence, and third party referencing on your potential candidacy. Unlike the executive search process, the initial outreach is not a learning session about your career highlights and aspirations. Instead, the conversation is intended to provide you with as much context on the opportunity, the company, and the key constituents involved, to determine if you are interested in considering this specific opportunity.

If you are interested in the opportunity, you must first clarify whether you are allowed to sit on an outside company board. It’s critical that you know this information upfront. Unlike executive search, it is not necessary to keep a board opportunity confidential from your company. Oftentimes a company will have a policy on whether employees can serve on boards. A policy will also limit the type of company boards executives can sit on, especially if the board or if members of the board present a conflict of interest (for example, you will be barred from sitting on the board of a competitor and significant supplier). Most policies dictate that sitting executives are only allowed to sit on one board—so remember that if you agree to serve on a board, you may not be able to entertain another board opportunity until you rotate off or retire from your executive role. Many companies also have a process to have a board opportunity approved. We have also encountered situations when a company’s strategy has impeded a candidate’s ability to serve on a board. For example, if the company will be going through a restructuring or a merger, an executive who will play a significant role in the execution of the strategy may not be given approval to sit on an outside board for capacity and optical reasons.

Second, while this may seem premature, you will need to confirm whether the board meeting dates conflict with your company’s board meeting dates or other significant company meetings. While schedule conflicts are easy to determine, board candidates sometimes leave this step towards the end of the process which can lead to unexpected and unsuccessful outcomes. When evaluating any board opportunity, it is critical for you to do this step before moving forward.

If you pass these first two hurdles, you should then ask yourself the following questions:

If the answer to any of these questions is not in alignment with you pursuing this opportunity, you should let the search firm know within seven days. It is critical to be honest about these questions as early in the process as possible. We have seen candidates who are aware that the answer to one of these questions might pose a problem but continue to move forward with the process anyway. They mistakenly believe that exploring the opportunity will allow them to learn without commitment, enhance their candidacy for other opportunities, and extend their network and relationships. However, boards do not like being turned down during the final stages of the search process for any of the above reasons. Your candidacy likely has an impact on the board’s broader recruiting strategy, or they may have slowed down attempts to attract other candidates to spend time with you. Being disrespectful to the board’s time can have unintended consequences and can affect your personal brand in the marketplace.

If you decide to pursue the board opportunity and you are confident in your answers to the above questions, you should take the necessary time to review your company’s policy on serving on an outside board and perform as much due diligence as possible about the company, the CEO, and the board. This includes:

#3: Interviewing with the Board

Once you have agreed to move towards formal interviewing, and generally following an extensive discussion or interview with the search firm, you will be invited to an initial meeting with the designated board search committee lead. At this time, you should have received preliminary approval from your company to consider and potentially join this specific board. After your initial meeting, there will be immediate feedback from the board search committee to the search firm about your potential candidacy and fit.

We are often asked how boards evaluate prospective candidates. While each situation is unique, we have found there are three common themes that are addressed during the first few meetings:

Will you be able to successfully transition from being an executive to a board member? As there are many different types of leadership styles that can be effective as an executive, some can be obstacles when becoming an effective director. No matter your leadership and communication styles, you need to understand and demonstrate during your interview the skills and perspective needed to be an effective director versus an executive. As a board member, you are expected to provide guidance and advice; not to require the details that an operator of the company would need.

Will you be an effective listener? As a director, you will need to listen to the perspectives of your fellow board members and the management team, but also from all your stakeholders. The most effective directors are those who can distill complicated issues into profound brevity and can help unify others to make decisions together. You will need to be willing to learn from the diverse perspectives of others and allow them to change and reshape your thinking. We have helped boards recruit talent for more than 30 years, and we can assure you that the most ineffective directors are those whose default communication approach is to talk instead of listen.

Will you be able to ask good questions? As a director, the ability to ask questions that provide enhanced insights to make better group decisions is the key to having an impact in the boardroom. Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in corporations as its fosters more-effective interactions, strengthens trust and chemistry, and better aligns the board and management team on the most critical issues. How you approach your conversations with the Board Search Committee will provide them insight on how you would interact as a director. For each open board seat, it is common practice that only 2–3 candidates will be invited to formally interview. Often, the board has a variety of skill and experience needs to be filled, and each potential candidate will bring something different and unique to the table. Future committee membership and board leadership, as well as factors such as ESG needs (Environmental/Social/Governance) and diversity can play a role in the assessment of the candidate’s fit. If you have been asked to interview, you should consider it a huge compliment and a testament to what board members know or have heard about you.

As you progress through the process, you will also meet the chair, CEO, lead director (where applicable), and most likely the rest of the nominating and governance committee. In many cases, it will be appropriate for you to also meet with a specific member of the management team, depending upon the committees on which you are potentially slotted to serve. You should prepare to meet 5–7 different individuals during the process and expect the interview stage to last 2–3 months.

Once the board has decided they would like to potentially invite you to join the board, several key next steps will take place:

#4: Receiving and Accepting an Invitation

Assuming a positive outcome to the steps above, the nominating and governance committee will recommend that you are formally offered a seat on their board. Once the full board votes on that motion, the chair or the chair of the nominating and governance committee will call you to formally confirm your selection and invite you to join the board as well as attend the next board meeting. It is routine for a candidate to immediately accept the offer unless the candidate was obligated by his or her company to reconfirm their approval before formally accepting the offer.

You should then inquire about the timing of the press release and, if not, the publication date for the annual proxy statement. It is critically important that your current company, CEO, and board are comfortable with the timing. Once the announcement of your board appointment becomes public, you should take the time to personally call everyone on the board whom you met and thank them for the help and guidance they provided to you throughout the process.

Corporate boardrooms continue to be reshaped for the new future ahead of them. It is more critical than ever to get the right board members at the right time for a company to optimize its impact on the world around them. Hopefully pulling back the curtains on the mystique of the board search process will help improve the outcomes and experience for boardrooms and candidates alike.

# # #

About Our Board & CEO Services Practice

Our Board and CEO Services team partners with CEOs and boards to understand issues, assess opportunities, and strategically advise to ensure sustainable growth strategies are optimized. We are committed to executing an action plan that addresses sensitive and complex leadership needs and ensures clients are well positioned for the future. RSR offers trusted advisement rooted in years of experience and market knowledge. We excel at optimizing board and CEO effectiveness through transformative thinking about structure and operations. This helps us to engage closely with clients to drive greater accountability and enhanced performance. Our practice group leverages RSR Partners’ renowned experience in corporate governance with the firm’s industry and human capital consulting expertise to create an integrated and seamless approach. The range of services we provide to boards and CEOs include:

Board Services

CEO Services

An Insider’s Guide to Building or Enhancing Your Board

This article was originally published by Corporate Board Member.

Boards that are built to last evolve with the changing needs of their companies and leadership teams. Consider these four guideposts.

The third quarter of 2021 was the most active Q3 for global IPOs in 20 years, according to EY. The IPO rebound, popularity of SPACs and continued surge of private equity and venture capital activity has put tremendous pressure on boards to be ready for being a public company. As a result, many lessons and themes have emerged that serve as beacons and sirens for all boards to consider.

Over the course of our 30 years advising boards and CEOs, what clearly stands out is that the boards that are built to last evolve with the changing needs of their companies and leadership teams. In addition, considering the challenges and opportunities presented by ESG and DE&I initiatives, the stakes for boards to appropriately address stakeholders and have a meaningful impact are at a generational precipice. Accordingly, we are sharing our insider’s perspective on the four most important guideposts your company or organization should think about when building or enhancing your board.

#1: Board Architecture

In the real estate industry, there is a saying that, “the taller the building is, the stronger the foundation needs to be.” The same applies to creating boards of what we call “forever businesses.” As with the previous inflection points in corporate governance best practices, the past two years have reshaped the thinking around how to build a board that is strong enough to confront inevitable headwinds. Every board must start or revisit what their ideal board framework is to successfully execute the company’s strategy in today’s environment and in the next 10+ years.

1. Vision, Purpose, Strategy: All boards must approach their governance framework by understanding the journey they will need to take to reach their aspirational future state.

2. Stakeholder Interests Analysis (SIA): A new but now critical component for all owners and boards is to understand the ecosystem of stakeholders who will have influence or direct impact on the organization.

3. Capabilities: Boards should identify the skills and experiences directors needs to possess to help govern the company and advise management through any challenge.

4. Committee Structure: The number, types, and charters needed for each committee to effectively govern should be carefully crafted. Boards are moving past the standard three committees to include separate risk and finance committees as well as climate, digital and cyber which will require new competencies on the board.

5. Board Size: The number of directors, including independent versus management, should be determined in advance of building a board.

6. Governance Guidelines and By-laws: These should be developed early and include annual director versus classified elections and governance best practices.

#2: Board Leadership

Once the board architecture is finalized, the most critical and important decision is determining the leadership structure of the board, the characteristics of each key position, and who will serve in those roles. Especially for companies preparing for an IPO, the chair of the board, lead director and committee chairs will heavily influence the capabilities, effectiveness and culture of the new board.

1. Board Chair: Every organization has a unique journey ahead of them. Whether it is appropriate to have an independent board chair versus a combined chair and CEO is situationally dependent. Often, the capabilities and experience of the CEO must be overlayed against the needs of shareholders and other stakeholder groups. The board chair sets the tone and tenor for almost all significant forthcoming decisions.

2. Lead Director: If the board determines the best board leadership structure for several years is a combined chair and CEO role, it is imperative to clearly define and empower the duties of the lead director to help carry the workload of the chair and CEO as well as serve as an effective counterbalance to the internal power dynamic.

3. Committee Chairs: As most of the heavy lifting is handled by committees, it is critical for those chairs to have previous committee experience, the necessary capacity and the relevant capabilities to serve. ESG, DE&I and other significant compliance and oversight issues are landing on the doorsteps of the committee chairs, and it is their responsibility to help move the board and their fellow directors forward on addressing these issues.

#3: Board Leadership Succession

One of the most important but often overlooked aspects of building a board is Board Succession Planning. Many boards will prioritize and focus their time and attention on adding directors who can address specific capability gaps when the opportunity arises. This is because succession tends to become apparent when a retirement age or term limit is reached. During the last two years, we have seen a material weakness in the preparedness of boards to have actionable solutions available to address unexpected retirements, especially with committee leadership positions. Some boards approach succession planning like CEO succession planning. However, unlike CEO succession planning when a small number of executives are being groomed and developed for the position, more optionality is required for board succession planning given the demonstrably larger number of directors. All boards need to have a short-term and medium-term succession plan and roadmap for all the key leadership positions that is reviewed and confirmed annually.

1. Develop Director Succession Roadmap: An anticipated and emergency plan should be completed annually for each board leadership position. Ideally, the plan should consider how to fill the position if the need arises immediately, in one year, three years, five years, etc. Boards must pay close attention to the skills, experiences, and behaviors they desire in their leaders.

2. Refreshment: Build your roadmap with the intention that committee chairs will rotate every five years.

3. Diverse Board Leadership Equally Important: Similar to the board as a whole, leadership positions on the board must exemplify diversity as well. This will signal the board’s commitment to diversity as well as help enhance board culture.

4. Board Evaluations: The assessments of the individuals’ performance in these leadership positions must be part of the annual board evaluations. Expectations for the positions are rapidly evolving.

#4: Board Recruiting

The board recruiting landscape is currently incredibly active and competitive. There continues to be an urgency to recruit new directors who can add diversity of thought, experience, expertise, age, ethnicity, gender and/or geography. Whether your board is preparing to go public or is a public company board that just needs to address or enhance a specific capability gap, follow these best practices that we have gathered from advising a wide spectrum of clients on board recruiting.

1. Failing to plan is planning to fail. While focusing on addressing your most pressing gaps on the board, only add a director who has succession potential for one of the board leadership positions. If the director does not have that potential, it will present significant issues down the road.

2. Start yesterday. Many boards wait to recruit until it is definitively known that there will be an “open seat.” What we have learned from working with some of the most effective and well-run boards is they develop a candidate pipeline six months before the need is anticipated. In many cases, boards start sowing seeds with high priority candidates 12 – 24 months in advance.

3. Add what you need—not what you lost. When directors retire or leave a board where they played a significant role, the board needs to avoid the temptation to try to replace the voice and perspective that was lost.

4. Prioritize talent over title. Boards who are willing to focus less on a candidate’s title and more on specific expertise have a better chance of identifying candidates who also have the necessary knowledge to have a real impact and improve the effectiveness of the board. Serving on a board requires someone not only with a specific capability but also broad general management experience. Candidates with previous board experience typically will have an impact immediately and beyond their specific area of expertise. Additionally, it is important to recognize that titling structures differ from company to company and industry to industry. A CEO may bring cachet to the board, but many non-CEOs bring further valuable contributions.

The value of a properly functioning board cannot be underestimated. Your board plays a crucial role in the success of your business. With growing shareholder activism and stakeholder pressures, better corporate governance can only be achieved through a successful working relationship between your board and management as well as positive social and cultural board dynamics and interaction. Taking the necessary time and effort to build or enhance your board is time wisely spent.

# # #

About Our Board & CEO Services Practice

Our Board and CEO Services team partners with CEOs and boards to understand issues, assess opportunities, and strategically advise to ensure sustainable growth strategies are optimized. We are committed to executing an action plan that addresses sensitive and complex leadership needs and ensures clients are well positioned for the future. RSR offers trusted advisement rooted in years of experience and market knowledge. We excel at optimizing board and CEO effectiveness through transformative thinking about structure and operations. This helps us to engage closely with clients to drive greater accountability and enhanced performance. Our practice group leverages RSR Partners’ renowned experience in corporate governance with the firm’s industry and human capital consulting expertise to create an integrated and seamless approach. The range of services we provide to boards and CEOs include:

Board Services

CEO Services

The Realities of Recruiting Diversity to the Boardroom

This article was originally published by Savoy Magazine.

How access delivers results

Successfully recruiting diversity to the boardroom requires a customized search strategy that boutique search firms are uniquely positioned to offer. In my decades advising executives on their most important talent needs, I can attest to the enhanced value diversity brings to the boardroom dynamic. Nevertheless, organizations still struggle to get this right – despite best intentions – and the consequences of inadequate results can have long-lasting impacts on a board’s culture and ability to influence and effectuate.

The reality is that high demand for diversity talent requires boards to partner with a search firm that can genuinely represent them in a very crowded market. Understanding a few key decision points can help those responsible for board composition make informed decisions regarding which firm to select.

What constitutes a qualified candidate is inherently debatable, but this should be the first point addressed with a search firm. Traditionally, board candidates are current or retired CEOs, CFOs, GCs, and major business/division leaders on executive leadership teams. This is a safe, proven path. However, not only is it impassable for most candidates given the paucity of openings, but it perpetuates diversity disparities – a well-explored topic.

An alternative approach is to partner with a search firm to build a board succession plan based on an assessment of competencies. This allows boards to anticipate their makeup and cultivate talent to supplant needs while simultaneously solving for diversity. Succession planning requires a deep dive into the board, which means the firm must possess capacity, discipline, and diplomacy. This process fosters a trusted relationship between the board and firm, and boutique firms purposefully limit the number of their engagements to ensure this high level of accountability and client service.

Since pipelining talent alone is rarely sufficient to achieve diversity, search firms that gain a board’s trust to explore untraditional profiles can expediate the process. Executives with the expertise and perspective that can be additive, such as human resources, ESG, information technology or digital experts, commercial, and purchasing/supply chain leaders, are often overlooked as qualified candidates. Rarely will the “usual suspects” bring distinctiveness in these areas. Boards should also leverage the practical knowledge of indirect reports to the CEO, such as SVPs at large-cap companies, especially for mid or small-cap opportunities.

Board capacity, conflicts of interest, and schedules can dramatically reduce a slate. Untapped, qualified diverse candidates are becoming more sought-after. Therefore, the more boards a search firm is committed to at one time, especially when engaged to search for similar profiles, the more each client must analyze where they stand in the firm’s pecking-order. Boutique firms are unlikely to be searching for similar candidate profiles at the same time and can present clients with unrestricted access to a slate.

Finally, how a search firm approaches the candidate and characterizes the personality of the board can greatly impact the candidate’s interest. Without a deep understanding of the board’s intrinsic nature and strategy to enhance its expertise and perspective, missteps happen. Approaching high-impact candidates is a combination of art and science. Recruiters should develop an extensive appreciation of the candidates’ experience, expertise, character, and interests and articulate clearly how the candidate aligns with the profile and impacts the board. Boutique firms that put candidate care high on their value statement and possess the bandwidth and emotional intelligence to cultivate candidates will be more convincing.

In short, the bureaucracy and oversight that can thwart the success of recruiting diversity to a board are often absent in boutique search firms. On a topic this important, hold your search firm to a higher standard.

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Eric Douglas Keene is a Managing Director in the Board & CEO Services practice at RSR Partners and the founder of Keene Advisory Group. He has extensive experience recruiting a diverse range of senior executives to C-Suite level roles and to boards of directors.

How to Develop Successful Education Programs for Multi-Generational Family Business Owners

The success and longevity of family-owned businesses is often credited to the level of engagement of the family members in the business, the investment and management of the family’s wealth, or both. As a boutique executive search and board governance firm that specializes in championing the unique connection between family-owned businesses and family offices and advising family leadership on talent development and strategy, we at RSR Partners have observed what it takes for families to grow and transition their businesses and wealth from generation to generation. While every family is unique in their makeup, values, and culture, we have recognized a few themes that contribute to high engagement among family members. We are pleased to present this series of blog posts that summarize some of the topics and ideas we have discussed with our clients. Key to high engagement is an education program that appeals to multiple generations, includes a philanthropy component, and weaves a talent development strategy throughout the curriculum. Developing such a program can be a challenging and onerous task. For those of you with this important responsibility, we hope this guidance will be helpful.

1: Bring the Family Together

Annual In-Person Meetings

Bringing the family together in-person as much as possible helps members of the family build relationships and develop a bond of trust, fellowship, and rapport. It can be a challenge for members of the family to commit to in-person meetings. Many of our family clients hold a required, in-person, annual meeting and develop an agenda to keep family members engaged throughout the day (more ideas below).

Developing a Family Charter

If a family does not have a mission statement or a charter, developing one is essential. The family members can revisit the charter during the annual meeting every year. Annual meetings are also a great time to educate and discuss the family’s history and legacy thus far, so that family members are reminded of the effort taken to accomplish the achievements and success the family enjoys.

Overview of the Family Business

The annual meeting agenda also usually includes an overview of the strategic plan for the relevant family business, an explanation of the family’s assets and investment strategy, general educational sessions around financial management, and information regarding the family’s philanthropic efforts. Future blog posts will take a deeper dive into how to educate family members about the business, tailor and evolve the educational sessions for various generations, and discuss the family’s assets and investment strategy.

Philanthropy Day

Another great way to get families together – and to engage with the up-and-coming or next generation – is through an annual “philanthropy day” or session during the annual meeting. A member of the family office can describe what philanthropy is, explain the various categories, and how the family currently contributes wealth and time to these causes. Some families have come up with mock (or even real) dockets and portfolios for the family members to build. This allows the family members to think through their passions and interests and learn from their commitments and mistakes. Some of our clients have done this with family members as young as 7 or 8 years old! This process also often helps family leadership to identify the family members who have an interest in philanthropy and the ability to strategically approach investment opportunities.

Regular Trust Meetings

Many of our family clients also hold regular trust meetings in addition to the annual meeting to ensure that the family members are educated and have a positive relationship with their wealth. Recurring meetings help to remind family members of the importance of understanding the trust instrument, who the beneficiaries are, and how inheritance is distributed over time. Family members who are educated and prepared for milestones tend to handle the related responsibilities with more ease.

Acknowledge Disruption

It can sometimes be helpful for the family to take time during annual meetings to discuss any disruption or disconnection that has impacted the family, the family’s business, wealth, or philanthropy efforts over the previous year. A third-party facilitator or moderator can help with these sessions. It is healthy and productive for the family to acknowledge challenges and work together to overcome them.

Inclusion Policy

It can similarly be helpful to acknowledge that some family members, as well as some spouses, partners, or others who have married into the family, may not be allowed to participate in trust meetings, or other aspects of an annual meeting, depending on the trust documents and how decision making is conducted. Our family clients suggest developing a family inclusion policy that outlines when and how a non-member of the family can be involved in business or family initiatives. Many of those who marry into the family have their own careers and independence but desire to have a voice. Allowing the “outlaws” to have their own session, perhaps with a moderator, at the annual meeting to discuss their roles and how they can contribute tends to be beneficial.

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In sum, families that own businesses and have family offices, and have transitioned through multiple generations successfully, all emphasize that an in-person annual meeting is an important opportunity to underscore and reiterate the family’s mission statement and to build trust and appreciation for one another.


In our previous post, we discussed how the success and longevity of family-owned businesses are often tied to the family’s level of engagement. Family offices are uniquely positioned to provide education programs that can deepen this engagement with multiple generations, resulting in smoother leadership succession. Bringing the family together for an annual meeting that includes educational sessions is a great first step. Additionally, family leadership should consider the various pathways each family member could follow as they mature and develop.

2. Establish Education Pathways

Generally, family members fall into the following categories: (1) business management/leadership, (2) board member, (3) shareholder, and/or (4) family member. It is best practice to develop an educational program for each pathway, even where many family members may fall into more than one category or move between categories at different point in their lives. A distinction between pathways helps family members understand the varying responsibilities related to each role.

A course schedule and timeline can be developed for each pathway. For the management/leadership tract, consider why and how family members become interested in the business. There may be opportunities to host sessions specifically to inspire curiosity about the business, the relevant industry or market, and the family’s legacy. Next, chart the relevant topics and substantive knowledge the family member should master into a 5- or 10-year roadmap to track progress and set milestones and expectations. This process also serves as a great opportunity for dialogue between family members and current leadership/management to ensure alignment. We note that this pathway should serve as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, a family member’s formal education processes, and it will be most effective when tailored to identify critical gaps in knowledge or experience relative to the family business.

Also, regardless of the pathway, there are some basics that should be covered for those interested in a role with the family business and managing wealth. Spending the time to have these conversations with a combination of older and younger generations can be critical to business transition and succession. We will discuss potential program sessions in our next post.

For the board member and shareholder pathways, consider desired traits and prior successes (and failures) of productive board members and shareholders. Examine the information that will be made available to them and explain key performance indicators that will be used to measure success. For board members, essential topics might include fiduciary duties, responsible decision-making, roles of committees, communications, and maximizing interactions with other board members.

Some family members will either be uninterested or unable to participate in the family business, but their importance to the overall health and success of the company and family should be recognized with an educational pathway. Consider sessions that help parents advise their children as they mature and gain a deeper understanding of the business and their wealth. All family members could benefit from lessons on risk and the potential impacts of their unrelated activities on the family business. Additional ideas for sessions, facilitated or moderated by a professional, include handling stress, publicity, and family dynamics and support.

Prior to each annual meeting, it is helpful for the family office to consider performance and progress through various pathways and then set (or revise) educational goals for the coming year. These goals can and should be aligned with the company’s business plans and/or the family’s wealth management and investment strategies. This prioritization then creates the foundation for sessions at the annual meeting and provides ideas and a trajectory for ongoing courses throughout the year. Blocking dates and times for the ongoing programs at the annual meeting can help establish a rhythm and keep family members on track. An added benefit is that this process demonstrates transparency to all generations, sets the stage for the year, and hopefully furthers trust and buy-in for the educational process from family members.

It may also be necessary to assess whether an individual has the capacity to fully commit to a program. Creative topics can help engage this audience. Knowledge of the courses and timeline for each pathway also empowers family members, as they understand the resources available and can contribute ideas around how each topic is covered. Courses can be mixed and matched depending on how family members learn. The courses can be run by the family office, or can be via an educational institution, professional services firm, guest speakers or others.

Lastly, an advantage to establishing educational pathways is that the process helps leadership observe the development of each family member, gain a sense of each individual’s skills and capabilities, and gauge interest in the business or in wealth management. It can be helpful to identify and create criteria or attributes that are associated with success in each pathway and then put assessments or other tools in place to determine when each individual develops necessary qualities and demonstrates the capabilities to advance to the next stage of their progression. These assessments can include online testing, probing different leadership experiences, or formal written evaluations. This is particularly common for family offices involved in operating businesses. These benchmarks can help family members take the educational program seriously, as they will see and experience how participation and successful completion of programs coincides with their progression within the family business.

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In sum, establishing educational pathways can help family offices and family-owned business engage multiple generations of family members. Spending the time to consider the milestones along each pathway will help facilitate and guide family members to becoming and remaining productive contributors to the business, the family office, and the family itself.

Upcoming Blog Posts:

3: Areas of Education and Who Handles Education / Education Options

5: Education & Succession and Impact of Family Culture on Education

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About Our Family-Owned & Family Office Team

Our dedicated family-owned & family office team focuses on attracting best-in-class investment, financial, operational, and general management talent to the unique benefits of working within a family office. As family offices become more professionalized, with more robust internal investment teams, higher quality investment reporting, and more incentivized compensation structures, clients have relied on us to persuade candidates to move to a family office environment. Our work across traditional asset managers, endowments and foundations, alternative asset managers, outsourced CIO firms, and private wealth management firms enables us to recruit from a broad and diverse candidate base. We have a strong track record of success, and in many cases, we have been enlisted to build our successful candidates’ teams and eventually to recruit their successors. With patient, long-term pools of capital, family offices are increasingly viewed as a stable and stimulating investment management platform, requiring the “best-in-class” talent that RSR can provide. Examples of positions we commonly fill at family offices include:

RSR Partners Deepens Bench with Eric Douglas Keene

Chicago, IL., August 3, 2021 – RSR Partners, a leading board and executive search firm, has announced that Eric Douglas Keene has joined the firm’s Board & CEO Services practice as a Managing Director in Chicago.

Known for high quality and versatility, Eric brings more than 25 years of experience recruiting a range of board directors, C-suite level executives, and commercial leaders for clients throughout the U.S. He leads engagements across a variety of industries, including consumer products and goods, industrial technology, financial services, private equity, and healthcare and life sciences; and is a seasoned functional expert recruiter in the areas of strategy, human resources, marketing and sales, finance, operations, and information technology.

“Eric is a terrific addition to our Board & CEO Services practice,” said Brett Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of RSR. “He has successfully operated at the intersection of the boardroom and C-suite and has the experience and capabilities for building high performing and diverse teams.”

“I am drawn to RSR’s legacy and 30-year track record helping board and C-suite executives with their most important leadership needs,” stated Eric. “I look forward to offering my distinctive lens, both internally and externally, and to providing clients access to an enhanced network and an additional set of expertise and capabilities.”

Eric is the Founder & President of Keene Advisory Group. He previously served as a firm-wide leader on Diversity & Inclusion and was a member of the Consumer and Corporate Officers practices at Russell Reynolds Associates. Prior to Russell Reynolds Associates, Eric worked for McKinsey & Company, serving international clientele on issues of operations, organization, sales, and strategy.

A Shaker Heights native, Eric received his MBA as the Weatherhead Alumni Scholar from Case Western Reserve University and earned his BSc in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan.

About RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The company was founded in 1993 by industry icon and Chairman, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Over the past 25 years, the firm has conducted more than 1,000 projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity owned, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including consumer goods and services, financial services, healthcare, industrial, and technology. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076