We profile four local executives who have made big contributions as outside directors on
the boards of local companies—and take a special look at one who has made a lasting
impact on numerous firms over the course of his career.
By Margaret Kaeter
From Twin Cities Business Monthly, October 1999
Five business people. All successful and beyond the need for accolades and gratitude.
Combined, they’ve made a large mark on the world of business. Retired from business
or still leading their own corporations, they’ve put in their dues.
Yet, for these five men, the recipients of this year’s Outstanding Director awards,
there is no rest. The nature of their success demands they bring their experience and
expertise to others. "If you don’t give back, it seems like a useless proposition," says
Winston Wallin, echoing the words of all five award recipients. Wallin is former
president, CEO, and chairman of the board for Medtronic Corporation, and this year’s
Lifetime Achievement award winner. "What’s the purpose of having business knowledge
if you don’t help the next generation?"
"You value your contribution if you feel you have helped, particularly in times of
need," adds Mike Wright, CEO and chairman of SUPERVALU, Inc., and an outstanding
director from Musicland Stores Corporation. "A lot of being a director is a governance
situation where you want to make sure the company has sound management and
reasonable objectives, and they’re measured against those objectives. It’s important
in a public company because you’re ensuring its value for the stakeholders."
Life as a director is not always easy, they admit. "The best ones work hard," says
Raymond Good, a retired businessman and a board member for Great Plains Software. "They read the information they’re given. They ask questions and talk with the CEO
between meetings. They don’t just accept fees and go away until the next meeting."
Adds Mark Sheffert, chairman and CEO of Manchester Companies, Inc., and an
outstanding director from Medical Graphics Corporation and Telident: "The hardest
part is maintaining a balance. It’s easy to get mired in the operation of a company, but
a director must articulate the future of the organization and manage the resources."
Indeed. It all comes back to value for the shareholders, says Donald Wegmiller,
president and CEO of Healthcare Compensation Strategies and an outstanding director
for Minnesota Power, Inc., and LecTec Corporation. "The bottom line is the represent
the shareholders. If you are active, supportive, and inquisitive, and if you extend
yourself to be a contributing board member, then you are representing the shareholders
A demanding job, but someone has to do it. These give were judged this year’s
most motivated, committed, and knowledgeable outside directors in the state.
Mark W. Sheffert
"I have an unwavering commitment to restoring shareholder value," says Mark
Sheffert, CEO of Minneapolis-based Manchester Companies, Inc., "I’m a steward of the
shareholders’ money; I take that seriously."
Sheffert has served on 26 boards in his years as a Twin Cities businessman. "Serving on boards is part of the dues for being a successful business person," he says. "You have a responsibility to contribute if you can, to share your knowledge and ideals.
"If you are going to serve on a board and represent the shareholders, you have to
learn about the company, its markets, how it delivers products, etc." he adds. "Board
meetings should not necessarily be congenial. You have to insist on a healthy dialogue
about where the company is going. You have to ask tough questions and push for the
His experience at Medical Graphics is a perfect example. "Medical Graphics was
a troubled company," he explains. "I joined the board in March, 1997; the year before
it had lost $10 million. We needed to refocus the company, take out expenses, and
provide new leadership. It required the board to be tough-minded. We had to have
singleness of purpose so we could make believers of the employees, lenders, suppliers
and most importantly, the customers."
"That focus is what makes Sheffert a strong director," says John Penn, CEO
and vice chairman of Satellite Industries, Inc., in Minneapolis and a fellow Medical
Graphics board member. "He deployed a back-to-the-basics focus on the company’s
core technologies and marketplace. The effect has been a dramatic improvement in
operating results that position the company for a bright future."
Telident was facing similar problems when Sheffert joined its board in 1994.
Under his leadership, the board changed management and refocused its business strategy. "He has been key in Telident’s strengthening of its board, management, and planning,"
says Willis Drake, a fellow Telident board member. "Telident’s improved balance sheet
and turn to ‘first profitability’ can be traced in no small measure to his uncommon
effectiveness as a Telident director."
Sheffert has specialized in the business of organizational renewal, which
frequently lands him on the boards of companies with financial problems. "The
important thing is to explain- if it’s bad news- what you are going to do as opposed
to just laying it out there."