Congratulations to W. Steve Albrecht – he has been selected as one of the 2017 Outstanding Directors Awards honorees! He is being honored for his work as the following:
- Director at SkyWest, Inc.
- Director at Red Hat, Inc.
- Chair at Cypress Semiconductor
- Director at DMBA
- Director at Larry H. Miller Group of Companies
The annual Outstanding Directors Awards celebrates our state’s most engaged and effective board members—individuals who exemplify excellence in corporate governance while guiding companies to develop long-term strategies, enhance their performance and mitigate risk.
Read more about Steve and the other 2017 Outstanding Directors Awards honorees in the digital magazine.
After a decades-long career as a professor at the likes of Brigham Young University, Stanford University and the University of Illinois, Steve Albrecht knows a thing or two about teaching. But it’s his love of learning that has helped him most in the nine boards he has served on during his career.
“Every board I’m on, it’s like being in a room with the smartest people I’ve ever met and learning from them. I’m a consummate learner. I don’t think I know all the answers—I definitely don’t know all the answers,” he says. “But for me that opportunity to sit with really smart people … it’s like being in the most engaging class I’ve ever sat in.”
Albrecht has no shortage of expertise of his own. In addition to his teaching, he has consulted with roughly 200 companies and served as an expert witness in 37 of the biggest fraud cases in the country, including Enron. He is a founder of the Austin-based Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, which now boasts more than 80,000 members and a headquarters building named after him. An anonymous donor was so impressed with Albrecht’s teaching that they gave an endowment to BYU for the W. Steve Albrecht Professorship, as well as the LeAnn Albrecht Fellowship, named after his wife.
While expertise is important, the culture of a board can be as important as that of the company as a whole, he says, and boards do better when every member is willing to listen, learn and collaborate.
“It’s about culture and groupwork and certain personal skills, but it’s also about knowledge and staying current,” says Albrecht. “You just have to be a good businessperson and be willing to listen. Too many people have to be the smartest person in the room, and that doesn’t make a good board member.”
Two other vital qualities are integrity and courage, he says. Early into his service on one board, those two qualities were needed when he felt strongly the way the company was accounting for revenue should be changed. Seventeen lawsuits were filed against the business, including some that named him personally. But when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approached the company and said they had been watching them because of their revenue accounting practices, Albrecht’s decision was shown to have saved the company some trouble down the line.
In his first meeting with another board, Albrecht noted the CEO’s salary was far too high, and moved to cut it in half. He and the CEO later became close friends, he says, because of the way he was able to manage the conflict. “You can disagree but not be disagreeable, and still try to have the right influence,” Albrecht says.
His wealth of knowledge and experience and the measured, respectful way he approaches problems makes him valuable on the board, says Chip Childs, president and CEO of SkyWest Inc., one of the companies on whose board Albrecht currently sits.
“He’s extremely thorough and has a sense of wide-ranging wisdom … that he brings to our board,” Childs says. “And that leadership style he has is not only caring for the stakeholders we have but making sure we have a tremendous amount of integrity in everything that we do—that we’re completely transparent, that we’re acting in the best interest and very forthright with all the stakeholders. Having that and knowing that’s Steve’s main quality on our board helps set a very fundamental baseline for everything we do.”