The Most Urgent Challenges of Directors to Watch

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We asked current and past Directors & Boards and Private Company Director Directors to Watch to define their most urgent challenges as their companies ­— and the world — move from one crisis to the next. Here’s what they had to say.

My answer is not the norm or even one specific risk like inflation, lack of materials, no shipping containers or people quitting, although all are present and concerning. The biggest risk is the overall weariness I see with my colleagues. After two years of COVID, supply chain disruption for a year, labor challenges with people leaving to earn 35-70% more and little hope it will be better in the next few months, they are just exhausted, frustrated and on edge. As a CEO (and a board member), it is a daily struggle to keep operations going, much less moving ahead strategically. Uncertainty over the future following the invasion of Ukraine is making it worse, and I’m hoping it does not become a tipping point. Some days, we feel more like firefighters than businesspeople, dealing with the next crisis before it combusts. Not the usual answer, yet this is what I am seeing.  — Margaret Pederson, Director to Watch 2013

Talent, talent and more talent. — Lynn Clarke, Director to Watch 2020

From my perspective, it is a combination of sourcing skilled labor to meet what we believe will be an uptick in A&D contractor/subcontractor order demand for precision parts related to the rebuilding of the U.S. military complex, given the current crisis in Ukraine and the related increased cost of labor. This could be more than a temporary upcycle and could call for the need for an expansion of the company workforce, coupled with the incurrence of higher wage labor rates to attract and retain talent, all of which will need to be factored into purchase order bid estimates. Sad to say that Russia’s attack of Ukraine and its impact on Eastern/Western Europe’s view of such aggression has changed the paradigm in military defense spending in both Ukraine and Western Europe going forward, causing a need to reequip NATO and the U.S. — Anonymous

Top of mind for boards is how to set metrics/strategic goals to encourage a cohesive company culture within today’s environment of hybrid work environments, supply chain issues, and human talent retention/attraction, amidst rising costs.  Second would be board oversight of cybersecurity and risk assessment given the pandemic, geopolitical instability and inflation threats. — Sheila Rege, Director to Watch 2022

The most pressing risk is meeting investor expectations around ESG. Without defined parameters and assurance level requirements, it is left to the company to define the plan and approach, which may or may not withstand investor scrutiny. — Lori Beausoleil, Director to Watch 2021

For my companies, it’s not Russia. Or inflation. It’s “key person risk” — holding on to our best people and recruiting to fill critical open roles. — Susan Ehrlich, Director to Watch 2022

The single biggest problem at present is that increases in raw materials over the last two years have escalated so materially that they cannot be passed on in full to customers with damaging financial results. — Valerie Woerner, Director to Watch 2021

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