Have No Fear, Statistics Can Save the Day


Statistics have never been my thing. Math was the most challenging coursework for me in high school; I loved algebra, and disliked geometry and calculus. I dropped out of a master’s program because my first class was statistics. I was late to the first class and felt I would never catch up. (It was an MFCC program and I surmised I was too empathetic to be a therapist, so the decision was fairly easy.)

In my adult years, I put off actively using a personal budget until this year. I tried multiple times but could never get the numbers to work for me.

Despite this hole in my skill set, I recognize the growing importance of numbers, particularly in business. In my career as a corporate board recruiter, I am diving into finance. I am reading Adam Epstein’s book, “The Perfect Corporate Board: A Handbook for Mastering the Unique Challenges of Small-Cap Companies,” and I can tell it will continue to serve me as a reference guide even after I’m done. Just like my high school calculus teacher, Epstein challenged my brain with complex investment banking terminology and procedures. But because he is so engaging, and bursts the bubble of one-size-fits-all corporate governance so effectively, he is holding my attention.

Stats and data are critical to any business. This concept is most evident in the business of sports. Jay Caspian Kang’s New York Times Magazine article “Why are some new statistics embraced and not others?” examined why ”exit velocity” caught on in baseball this year. Kang describes Tom Tango, the senior architect of stats for MLB Advanced Media, as the man responsible for turning data into “baseball stats that not only capture what’s actually happening on a baseball field but also engage the average fan.” Exit velocity — the speed at which a ball leaves a bat — gave fans a new way of measuring how hard some hitters smash their home runs.

Can the same thing happen in other businesses? Absolutely! As a CEO or board member, you can get stats that capture what is happening in your company in a format that your stakeholders will embrace. Consider cyber risk analysis. In the wake of cyber security breaches that hit companies like Equifax and Deloitte, and even the Securities and Exchange Commission, a new field has emerged of cyber quantitative risk analytics, in which companies try to put a value on the data that gets compromised.

CEOs and board directors need to examine the impact these breaches can have on their corporate assets. To do that effectively, you need to follow some simple steps:

  • You have to know what the assets are. They have a value.
  • Then you can work with your chief information security officer, or CISO to apply some risk analytics techniques to rank or quantify the risks and allocate your budget.
  • At that point, thanks to the beauty of statistics, you will know what your data is worth, and how much you can afford to spend to protect it.

So don’t shy away from the numbers. The odds are good that they’ll help you hit a home run.


Would you like your board to run like the well-oiled machine of the Golden State Warriors, 2017 NBA champions? I am going to demonstrate how you can achieve success by thinking like the Warriors.

Of note, I have not been inspired to follow an American sports team since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson played for the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s. The Warriors grabbed my attention with their beautiful, sleek and skilled playing in 2015 when they won their first NBA championship in 40 years.

The athletic and statistical prowess of each player can help make a good team yet not necessarily an extraordinary one. The key is what I call the “stealthy” skill set — those traits and experience that are not obvious on the surface, but that help to facilitate synchronicity on the court.

Some highlights of how the Warriors’ stealthy skills come into play:

Sixth man Andre Iguodala teamed up with a close friend in high school and became a self-directed stock investor. When he was a free agent a few years ago, he decided to play for the Warriors in part because of the team’s location in Silicon Valley and its ties to venture capitalists, including majority owner, Joe Lacob, a partner at Kleiner Perkins. Andre sought out VCs and personally connected with and was mentored by Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, who recommended Andre for a portfolio company’s board seat.

Another stealth trait of Andre’s is his willingness and conviction to mentor, educate and guide more junior players in becoming champions and leaders in managing their own finances. NBA players’ careers typically last about six years. Many professional athletes don’t know how to deal with sudden wealth and wind up over-spending and then filing for bankruptcy after their playing days end. Through his mentorship, Andre contributes to the future well-being of his teammates.

Kevin Durant also embraced the Silicon Valley startup culture in starting his own investment firm, Durant Company. He has also launched a charitable foundation. Kevin is also an underground hip hop star, performing privately in his home among close friends. He describes it as music therapy; he lays down the words and it clears his mind.

Kevin, his teammates Zaza Pachulia, Draymond Green and others, along with coaches and staff, made the trek to San Quentin Prison in 2016 for the Warriors’ fifth year of playing against San Quentin’s Warriors’ basketball team. He told the inmates he wanted to “show you guys some love.” Draymond said he embraced the opportunity to “mingle and talk” and “show these guys they matter.”

Kevin appears to me to be an old soul. He emanates gentleness and sensitivity. The significance of his jersey number is a case in point: number 35, the age at which his childhood community center coach was murdered. He said, “It’s all about doing it for somebody I love. It’s not about what’s the better number and what looks better on me. It’s all about him.”

And I have to mention Stephen Curry. Is there anyone who can watch Steph Curry without a big grin on their face? Watching him play is one of the rare times when “awesome” carries the depth of its true meaning. Steph has his own charity, donating money for each three-point shot he makes to Nothing but Nets, a group that provides insecticide-treated bed nets to regions where malaria is prevalent.

Steph also maintains relationships with those who have helped him along the way. He recently returned to his high school to retire his jersey. He consults his former coaches and theater instructor about life to this day, and nurtures those friendships.

Behind the scenes, the Golden State Warriors’ General Counsel & VP of Basketball Management & Strategy David Kelly negotiates player and coach contracts, and manages legal and strategic operations for the Warriors’ forthcoming new sports and entertainment venue, Chase Center in San Francisco. He keeps all the balls in the air, so to speak. He, too, has a separate stealth skill he brings to the table: he is a successful hip hop artist. David also gives back via multiple board seats with non-profits, including the United Negro College Fund.

Finally, of note is the man who put them all together, advancing and exemplifying the theory that handcrafted, hand-picked teams are the secret to success: Warriors owner and CEO Joe Lacob (who coincidentally earned his bachelor’s degree from my alma mater, UC Irvine). He hired a general manager, Bob Myers, who had never worked for a team before, and two coaches who had not coached at any level, including beloved Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr. OpenView recently posted these leadership lessons from Steve, and his tips apply to selecting board members: know your values and get to know your team through person-to-person relationships “based on compassion, trust and respect.” Joe also brought basketball legend Jerry West into the front office, not just as window dressing but as a real contributor. The San Francisco Chronicle noted, “One of the best things Lacob ever did was hire a presence who would offer a different opinion,” which is good insight for CEOs who prefer consensus-building boards; getting peak performance out of your team comes when differing opinions are at the table.

As Joe Lacob says, “There is an architecture to building a board of directors.” Unearthing stealth information, experience and passion that is not on a board bio, resume or LinkedIn profile is how you will create a “board of warriors” and succeed, keeping your shareholders profitable and happy.

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC. She handcrafts retained searches in the SaaS space, helping CEOs, Nominating Governance Committee Chairs and investment bankers hand select board members for championship-level success.


Legacy of Racism

A recent conversation with my parents revealed a history of racism in my family, some of which I knew and some of which shocked me. The revelations spurred me to conduct further research which not only shed light on my family’s participation in the racism that has historically marred our country, but also helped me understand what motivates me to do the work I do: assisting CEOs in building inclusive boards. I will tell my family’s story here in the hope that it can play a part in defeating the racism that continues to plague our society.

On a visit with my parents, we were discussing my mom’s upbringing and multiple residences in St. Louis. She remembered the address of the home her dad built when she was a young child and I found the image on Zillow. That led to a discussion regarding her dad’s sister, Eva, who also lived in that house as a young adult. My mom’s Aunt Eva, who lived to age 104, was a member of, and spent her last years in a home run by, the Daughters of America, also known as DoA (and not to be confused with the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR). We used to get letters from her with the return address of National Home D of A, Tiffin, OH. According to Wikipedia, the DoA was established as the “ladies auxiliary” of the Junior Order of United Auto Mechanics (JOUAM), a youth subsidiary that broke off from the Order of United Auto Mechanics. The OUAM name sounds innocuous to me, like an auto workers’ labor union, but in fact it was founded in the mid-1800s as an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant organization.

The Daughters of America mission statement declared it to be a “patriotic fraternity, which seeks to aid in preserving and perpetuating the Public School system; to instill a spirit of patriotism into the youth of our land; to place our flag over every schoolhouse; to promote the reading of the Holy Bible therein; and to protest against the immigration of paupers, criminals, and the enemies of our social order.”

The DoA is noted to have been associated with the KKK in the 1920s, and admitted only white American women age 16 or over and JOUAM members. As recently as 1979, documents note that admission in the group was open to “patriotic, white male and female citizens of good moral character, who believe in a supreme being as the creator and preserver of the universe and who favor the upholding of the American public school system and the reading of the holy bible in the schools thereof…” If you have read the book or seen the film “The Help,” the DoA is the secret society to which the women and girls belonged.

I knew from genealogy records that my Irish-American relatives from the late 1700s had owned slaves. Excerpts of two family wills from Fauquier County, Virginia, include assigning “acres and slaves” to one son, “one Negro” each to a boy and two girls, and the remaining eight children received a “good suit of clothes,” “one riding horse,” or a “new saddle and bridle.”

Learning of the DoA’s KKK connection on top of the slave ownership in my family background was like getting pulled underwater, choking on sea water, coming up for air thinking all is okay, and then getting caught by the riptide and pulled underwater again.

The DoA’s white supremacist beliefs are counter to who I am, what I am about, and the polar opposite of the foundation of my work: helping CEOs who are building, growing or refreshing their boards of directors with an eye for inclusion.

I then revisited some of Aunt Eva’s old letters, and I found a few in which she revealed her racism. During her stay at a prior nursing home in St. Louis in the early 1970s, she didn’t like the “riff raff” that came to visit the black residents, and she complained of the home starting to put whites and blacks in the same room. She said if that happened to her, she would move, which appears to be one of the reasons for her relocation to the DoA home in Ohio in the late 1970s.

Our country has deep roots in racism, many years of a white supremacist culture, and inequality that persists to this day; we are all affected by racism in some way, whether we are privileged or not. Someone I know attended a workshop several years ago on white supremacy culture, and I found the material instructive on different ways racism both stealthily and blatantly manifests itself in our daily lives as perfectionism, individualism, fear of open conflict, discomfort with emotions and feelings, and other disheartening characteristics, several of which I regretfully experience within myself.

Would you be willing to join me in overcoming the history of racism in our nation? Below are a few small steps you can make:

• Hire, contract, work or volunteer with someone who doesn’t look like you;

• When there are two empty seats, take the seat next to the person who is most unlike you and initiate a conversation;

• Look your neighbors, fellow citizens and non-citizens in the eye, smile, say hello and take interest in how they are different from you;

• Access your empathy and use it.

Although our history is undoubtedly troubling, and there is still much work to be done, I take heart in seeing signs of progress in the arena in which I work, corporate board membership. The consulting firm Deloitte published a Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards, which declared: “There has been an increase in the Fortune 500 of African American/Black women board members by 18.4 percent since 2012.” Let’s keep increasing those numbers!

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies who want to build, grow or refresh their boards.



All [A]board: Insights and Inspirations for Your Journey to and in the Boardroom

“When a company is trying to fill a board seat, the CEO and sitting board members often inadvertently default to their own immediate circle, and that pool and their ultimate judgments tend to tip toward finding sameness.” Kim Clancy (page 37)

Read the collective wisdom here as composed and published by Farella, Braun + Martel.

CEOs: How to Recruit Your Boss — Board Members Who Increase Your Bottom Line

Kim Clancy video interviews Penny Herscher on HOPTalks.

Hear the following take-aways:

*How to understand the role of the activist type investor.
*Learn the value of educating and networking one’s way including the use of a recruiter, onto a board.
*Hear how the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, opinions lead to better board decision making.
*How stressing the importance of needing to see a diverse candidate range is the CEOs role.
*How a diverse management team is more successful at delivering better financial results.

CEOs: Show Your Vulnerability, and Win Over Customers and Employees


 I learned something recently about the value of vulnerability. Before I tell you the lesson, I’ll share a little bit about myself and my frame of mind as the lesson came to me. 

I live in San Francisco, and my family lives in Southern California. My mom has cognitive impairment that seems likely to turn out to be Alzheimer's disease, and as a result, she resists any kind of outside help. On one recent weekend, my mom was hospitalized, and I went down at the last minute and spent several days helping navigate that difficult situation. I was "on" the entire time I was there, and when I returned home, I was exhausted, stressed, anxious and irritable. 

I took sanctuary in my Sunday New York Times and serendipity led me to my lesson, which brightened my spirits considerably. I’ve been following the career of Cedric Bru, the CEO of Taulia, a maker of invoicing software, and was pleasantly surprised to see him interviewed in The Corner Office column, with the headline, "Trust from the Top Down." 

Cedric wore his heart on his sleeve in this interview. He talked about instilling trust in his employees by making it acceptable for himself, his management team and his staff to be vulnerable. He also shared personal bits of information. He told about how he grew up working in his family's vineyards in France. He said his experience as a rugby player taught him to trust his team. And he gave a powerful example of how he revealed his own vulnerability to his staff, telling them that he was going through a difficult time because he was separating from his wife. 

I now know enough about Cedric to feel a real connection. That knowledge makes me want to promote Taulia as a product and place to work. 

A few days later, I also read that Taulia had decided to use Xactly, a sales compensation data analytics tool, which will help the company establish a fair system for paying its salespeople, through competitive salaries and commissions. Xactly’s claim to fame is that it uses technology to help businesses give employees the right incentives, so their interests align with the company’s interests. Building a compensation plan with Xactly should help Taulia hire and retain the best salespeople possible. That’s smart business. 

Who wants to work with a CEO who candidly shares personal challenges, who recognizes you have to trust your team, and who wants his company to have the most competitive compensation for its sales team? I do; do you? 

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O'Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies who want to build, grow or refresh their boards with an aim for inclusion.