CEO, The Hopgood Group, LLC
Governor-Appointed Chair, Capitol Region Development Authority
Former Board Chair, Newport Harbor Corporation
Former board director, board chair, and/or CEO of 11 public and private companies
Suzanne’s Keys to Success:
- Know how to develop relationships to get things done
- Don’t be afraid to speak up
How did you get connected to your first board seat?
John Hancock was my largest consulting client in 1996. A $250 million bond investment they participated in had gone into default and the workout included the five participating insurance companies naming five board members to the board. John Hancock recommended me, I interviewed, and was selected. Two years later TIAA-CREF initiated a proxy contest to take control of the board and I became Chair and CEO of the NYSE company based in Lubbock, TX.
How many corporate boards did you interview for before landing your first seat at the table?
Only NYSE Furr’s Restaurant Group.
What characteristic or behavior did you exhibit that you believe was a critical factor in your successful candidacy for your first board appointment?
For my very first real estate workout assignment for John Hancock, I called from the property, told them I couldn’t add value to their situation and offered to cancel the contract for only my travel expenses. They responded that had never happened to them before and told me to continue with the assignment. That led to contracts in three other departments and the recommendation for the board position in the Furr’s Restaurant Group workout.
How did you prepare for your first board meeting and in what ways did that preparation pay off?
I downloaded the bios of each board member, read the public filings, and requested the board meeting minutes, which is the same process I have used as an expert witness involving public companies. The combination should tell a story.
What has surprised you about the reality of board service versus the expectations that you had coming in – in a positive or maybe not so positive way?
The initial Furr’s Restaurant Group board, which was replaced by the TIAA-CREEF proxy, had the inaugural edition of Corporate Board Magazine’s cover page article title “The Board from Hell.” I never expected that level of nastiness and disrespect. I developed a script, which I have used ever since, “I’m sorry but I find that personally offensive. I would appreciate you keeping your personal perspectives to yourself.”
Help, hindrance or both – how does board service complement your professional career?
I understand much better the inner workings of corporations and boards.
What is the ONE essential piece of advice you’d give to other senior-level executive women who are on a journey to their first seat at the table? This could be from your personal experience, or perhaps advice that you’ve received and found to be true from someone within your network or at large.
NEVER NEVER NEVER tell someone “I’m looking to serve on a corporate board”. I just recommended a WOC after reading a Fortune 500 proxy, which I have a particular interest in. Here was my recommendation directly to the General Counsel: “I think ____, who is a former CFO of a public company, before that head of HR, is in your industry, and is a WOC, would benefit your company and your board”. That addresses why she would be a benefit to the board and the company. He agreed and is making the recommendation. Telling someone you want to serve on a corporate board says LOUDLY, “Here’s what you can do for me, even if I’m not qualified”.
What is your favorite quote that inspires you?
“Your word is all you have” from my Dad.
Suzanne Hopgood’s Bio
Suzanne Hopgood is the CEO of The Hopgood Group, LLC, a business consulting firm she founded in 1985. Ms. Hopgood assists companies facing business and financial challenges. Ms. Hopgood has served Chairman of the Board, CEO, and/or a director of eleven public and/or private companies. Ms. Hopgood currently serves as the Governor-appointed Chair of the Capital Region Development Authority, that oversees $800+ million in real estate development in the Capital City. Prior to founding The Hopgood Group, LLC, Ms Hopgood was responsible for a $1 billion equity real estate portfolio for Aetna Realty Investors. Prior to Aetna, she was the Vice President and Senior Lending Officer of a Massachusetts bank, responsible for all lending and foreclosures.
Views From The Boardroom is an exclusive series from Women In The Boardroom, where corporate board directors share their experience, insight and wisdom and their view from the boardroom. Corporate board directors interested in participating should email email@example.com.
The opinions and experiences expressed by the interviewees do not necessarily reflect those of Women in the Boardroom.