What do Chuck Pagano, Ben McAdoo, John Fox and Jack Del Rio have in common? They no longer coach an NFL team.
They also produced miserable results, which prompted their employment termination:
|Ben McAdoo||New York Giants||2-10*||0.1875||1.75 Seasons|
|Chuck Pagano||Indianapolis Colts||4-12||0.25||6 Seasons|
|John Fox||Chicago Bears||5-11||0.3125||3 Seasons|
|Jack Del Rio||Oakland Raiders||6-10||0.375||3 Seasons|
These terminations represented a disappointing ending for all those involved – a miserable season followed by an inglorious firing. Many fans (and maybe players) rejoiced when the firings were announced. After all, as Americans, we’re accustomed to rewarding winners and punishing losers. The ultimate punishment for failure is job termination.
Team owners must make difficult decisions when the viability of the team is in question. Hard decisions often lead to better future outcomes – like winning seasons, playoff berths, and Super Bowl victories. That’s what it’s all about in the big leagues.
As shareholders, we must ask the same question. Why do we settle for mediocre or substandard performance? Are shareholders akin to a team owner, empowered to replace failing coaches (or in this case, the CEO)? Why should shareholders settle for a losing record, season after season?
What would happen to corporate America if companies’ rightful owners (the shareholders) demanded of the team’s general manager (the board of directors) that the coach (CEO) be fired if he failed to produce a winning season and advance to the playoffs? Performance would be easy to measure on a daily basis: the stock market is the absolute score keeper. Every market day, winning and losing teams are declared in the market.
Naturally, CEOs will claim that they need to make tough decisions for the long-term. However, market participants can judge the efficacy of the CEO, his corporate strategy and executive decision making. If a CEO is making wise decisions, the shares will respond in kind. Markets tend to judge with clarity, despite what a CEO might claim. Participants can discern when a CEO is executing versus bloviating. Participants are sophisticated enough to understand well-articulated corporate strategy. If the strategy is sensible, the shares will respond accordingly.
Stock owners must demand a higher level of accountability from boards and CEOs. Team owners should expect and demand winning performance from their CEOs, or expect board members, who are shareholder representatives, to fire the CEO if goals are unachieved.
For far too long in corporate America, we have accepted a “clubby” relationship between board members and CEOs, to the detriment of shareholders/owners. Owners of companies and other constituents, such as employees and customers, have suffered as a result. Owners can replace boards that are too timid to fire a failing CEO by exercising the power of the proxy vote on an annual basis.
A good dose of shareholder activism can go a long way to “up the game” of US corporations. For corporate governance systems to work effectively, owners must pay attention and exercise their power to respond to poor performance with consequential action. Let the CEO know that his failure to perform will be dealt with by the greatest tool owners possess: the ability to deliver a pink slip and fire the coach.
We advocate for greater corporate transparency, accountability and accessibility. Get involved. Pay attention to CEO performance. Make your concerns known to your duly elected board of directors. Remind your directors that they serve at your discretion. Directors are paid handsomely for their rather non-intensive workload. Pressure them to act with courage when your company is underperforming. This is how our capitalist system was designed, and it works only when owners actively participate.