The Private Directors Association® body of knowledge represents core teachings, skills, and research important to those who serve as a director on a board of directors.

The Director Development Program is currently being reimagined as the Certificate in Private Company Governance within the new PDA University.

The Private Directors Association® provides a national network where board directors, executives and professionals interested in board service can receive director training and be connected with private companies interested in securing exceptional board members.

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Welcome to the Private Directors Association®

Our mission is creating, sustaining and enhancing Private Company value through the active use of diverse Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards.  We advocate for excellent practices in board formation and governance. We provide a national network where executives and professionals interested in board service can find and meet with those interested in securing exceptional board members. We provide a welcoming and responsive culture that distinguishes us.

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PDA Chapters

Testimonials

  • PDA membership has enhanced the professionalism of our board. With access to governance best practices, we significantly improved our decision making and board effectiveness. Membership also helped me prepare for board interviews, and as a result, I was recently invited to join the board of a large family business on the east coast.
    Cathy Carroll
    Founder & President Legacy Onward
  • While independent directors are required for public companies, they are equally important for private companies because they bring an important outside perspective that is a critical requirement for establishment of a strong corporate governance function. The independent director is particularly important in the development of corporate strategy, the understanding and establishment of an effective risk management program, and the implementation of an ethical environment with strong controls.
    Dennis Chookaszian
    Experienced Corporate Director Former CEO & Chairman, CNA Insurance Adjunct Professor of Strategic Management, Chicago Booth
  • Independent directors help us deal with the issues that the internal directors are reluctant to bring up. Since they are not involved in day to day operations, they take a long view and help us stay focused on the strategic issues.
    Rajan Sheth
    Chairman Mead & Hunt
  • Adopting a true outside board of directors has helped with the hiring and retention of non-family members. The Board has taken the family dynamic out of compensating family members and/or considering them for hiring or promotion. It also has helped us develop a more resilient succession plan. Having a true board, with a majority of independent directors, has enabled us to attract remarkably strong independent directors, who have become increasingly knowledgeable about our business. Over time this has enabled them to provide us with great advice and to hold me, the CEO, and other executives, accountable, all of which has greatly improved our performance.
    Milton Pinsky
    Chief Executive Officer Banner Apartments, LLC
  • At Lead to the Future, LLC we work with privately held and family owned businesses in the areas of sustainability, succession planning and governance. Our governance work focuses on building and refreshing fiduciary and advisory boards. In the past two years we have filled over 20 fiduciary board positions with our clients. The Private Directors Association has been a valued source for qualified and enthusiastic candidates. We appreciate the ability to link to this pool of top notch candidates.
    Stephanie Olexa, PhD, MBA
    President Lead to the Future
  • For startup founders and leadership, perspective is critical. Independent boards provide crucial insight and value to startups and play an important role in fostering success of these companies.
    Tom Alexander
    COO 1871
  • As a High-Tech start-up company, the Independent Directors were essential in terms of providing impartial assessment of the business model and the financial status of the company. Also, they provided additional perspectives of business opportunities and potential risks.
    Dr. Aziz Asphahani
    CEO QuesTek Innovations LLC
  • It is critical for every startup to have independent directors on their board to help fill in knowledge gaps that exist on the team. No one knows everything, so having an outside perspective from a field that is not represented in the backgrounds of the founding team is necessary.
    Donovan Morrison
    CEO Luna Lights, Inc.
  • The decision to stand up a Board of Directors, with independent embers, allows the private company to select unique, specific and necessary experience and skill sets that can significantly augment the leadership and management teams of a private company. The various points in the life cycle of a company, be it M&A, grassroots growth, succession planning or harnessing specific technologies for commercialization may dictate that various types of Independent Directors be selected for their ability to bring what specific experience that might be needed. The PRIVATE DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION has been instrumental in helping so directed companies to find those unique and talented individuals to join boards in their time of director selection.
    David Smith
    Director Gallagher Fluid Seals
  • Many family owned businesses have a founder who may have worked elsewhere, but his children may have only worked for the father’s business. Their worldly knowledge is limited, and an independent board member can bring a lot of outside knowledge and thinking to the board room. The board member may have many ideas for the company on how to grow the family business either internally or by acquisition, and the pitfalls to avoid. The board member may also have good ideas how to bring down the cost of operations, which is something that the family members do not have a lot of experience in doing.
    Michel J. Feldman
    Senior Partner Seyfarth Shaw LLP Board Member and Advisory Board Member. Several Public and Private Boards
  • Independent Directors on Private Company Boards bring value to a board by sharing their knowledge about succession planning for the business and the family as well as their experience in strategic planning gained from other industries and other businesses in which they have worked.
    Dennis Kessler
    Founder and President Midwest Family Business Advisors Independent Board Director
  • In the spring of 2018, I finished my Board Director Development and Referral coaching with Claudia Wyatt-Johnson, and wow is she fabulous. Her advice as my coach through this process was practical, candid and done so gracefully too! I was so impressed by her support and willingness to work with me on top of her demanding work schedule. This service is such an excellent benefit for the Private Directors Association members.
    Julia Bristow Briggs
    Principal Smart to the Top
  • I was introduced to the Private Directors Association (PDA) approximately 4 years ago. Their mission to provide contacts for and education on the value of a Board of Directors to privately held businesses is one that I have personally witnessed. In addition to seeing privately held companies benefit from the informative program and education committees provided by the PDA, I have personally benefited from the relationships I have been able to make as a member of PDA. Those relationships have helped shape my professional experience, provided rewarding personal contacts, and enhanced my ability to be aware of Board opportunities that fit my background. A result of my experiences with PDA has been Board service. I currently serve on two Boards. One of those Board positions is for a well known consumer products company Precious Moments and the other is the largest manufacturer of building products in its category in North America Metrie, Inc. I would strongly recommend involvement in PDA on a number of levels.
    Charlie Leichtweis
    President Process Solutions, Inc. Experienced Board Member

Board Successes

  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I have served on boards since the early 1980s. Networking with multiple sources is an all-important activity for anyone seeking board assignments. One of our purposes in founding the Private Directors Association was to provide a nexus for independent directors and the private companies that seek them. This capability is up and running. In 2015, Dennis Kessler passed a search inquiry from the Loyola Family Business Center through to members.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    When colleagues and students reach out to me for coaching or networking assistance I try to offer a meaningful response and recommendations for their consideration. I find Board work very meaningful and enjoy the work. Since most positions, so I’m told, are filled through referrals, I have also reached out to colleagues and friends to make my availability known.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    In 2012, I met the Verde founder, then working out of 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for start-ups.  As our friendship evolved, I invited the founder to attend meetings as my guest. In 2016, I accepted an independent director role on Verde’s newly formed advisory board.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I credit my membership in the PDA for helping me prepare for board interviews.  As a result, I was invited to join the board of Just Born, Inc., maker of Peeps®, Mike and Ike®, HotTamales® and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews®.  My PDA affiliation has also helped professionalize the governance of another board I advise.  With access to governance best practices, we significantly improved our decision making and board effectiveness.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    One of the reasons I joined the PDA was to prepare for future private board seats. I have been a member for the past 18 months and I was lucky enough to get access to the PDA Director Development & Referral program which allowed me to prepare materials that would help me to secure a board seat.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    My membership in the PDA was instrumental in my being asked to serve on three private company boards.  Before serving on my first board, I participated in the PDA Director Development & Referral program, which offered me one-on-one coaching, mentoring, and education related to Board roles and responsibilities, and résumé and interview preparation.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    Having served on several private company boards over the last two decades, I was delighted to join the Private Directors Association in late 2015. I was enthused to find an organization that caters solely to the needs of private company directors and advisors. Even though I had significant prior Board experience, I believed I could improve my board performance via PDA.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I joined the Private Directors Association to leverage my background in transportation and finance into a board role. Informational resources on the web site, meetings and webinars educated me about best board practices.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I joined PDA to better prepare myself for a Board role – and it worked!  All credit goes to PDA connections and strong networking relationships for connecting me with a CEO and company seeking an addition to their Advisory Board.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    Prior to joining PDA, I served as an Independent Director and fiduciary for a multi-billion dollar, privately-held, family-owned, for-profit company; Cancer Treatment Centers of America. After serving for seven years on CTCA’s Regional Board of Directors, I was promoted to the position of Chairman of the Regional Board and was also promoted to the National Board of Directors. With the increased responsibility, I wanted to further enhance my governance knowledge.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    In October 2016 an East Coast board consultant and recruiter reached out to the Private Directors Association on behalf of a 60-year old family business seeking to add three independent directors to its Board. Not yet knowing the company, but having a reasonably good idea of the director attributes being sought, I applied for one of the positions. Subsequently I learned that I had cleared an initial screening hurdle, and the company was identified and more information was provided. A telephone interview was then scheduled, following which I was asked to travel to the company’s headquarters for an in-person interview with key executives and family representatives. Interviews were concluded in February 2017 and a bit later I was asked to join the Board. The Company is Gallagher Fluid Seals headquartered in King of Prussia, PA with a second facility in East Longmeadow, MA. It is a global distributor and manufacturer of fluid sealing products for OEM & MRO customers seeking technical solutions that solve sealing challenges. PDA was instrumental in helping to make this exciting opportunity a reality.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    The Loyola Family Business Center sent out an announcement via the Private Directors Association in June of 2016 on behalf of a 40-year old East Coast Distribution Company.  The specification was for independent directors for their board expansion program.  Given my background in running and working with family owned distribution companies I applied for the position.  In December I was asked to join the Board.  The company is Top Notch Distributors located in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  The company is a leading distributor of Architectural Hardware, including a wide selection of Residential, Commercial and Electronic Access Control products, parts, and accessories.  This is an assignment that I would not have been aware of were it not for the Private Directors Association.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I joined Private Directors Association (PDA) to leverage my multi-industry background into a board role. This past June, I joined the SW White Board as an Independent Director. I will serve as Chairman of the Audit Committee. Without all the resources of PDA, I would not have been able to secure this position.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    I joined the Private Directors Association four years ago to benefit from the association's networking opportunities  and  educational programs.   PDA's thought leadership provides current information on issues facing private companies including areas of cyber security, succession planning, marketing and governance.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    At the Private Company Governance Summit in Washington DC in May  of 2018, I met several leaders of the Private Directors Association and was so impressed with their passion and purpose in helping private companies, boards, and members. I quickly joined and with a great group of leaders have helped launch the Nashville Chapter which is making a local impact at many levels and growing quickly. For several reasons, including assistance from members of the Private Directors Association®
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    My first PDA meeting was Chicago in 2016; I may have been among PDA's initial trainees.  Dennis Kessler worked with me on board-oriented outreach and interview preparation.  This preparation was helpful in getting an invitation to join the Air Tractor board, and perhaps more important, in equipping me to assess the governance quality of the company and whether I'd enjoy serving on its board.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    My membership in the PDA was a key factor in my being asked to serve on my first corporate board. I had significant C-suite and  P&L leadership positions in public and private companies and non profit board experience, but wasn’t  sure how to translate that into my first Independent Director role.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    In June 2019, I joined the Advisory Board of Milton’s Distributing and Gordon Logistics, jointly managed family business entities. Milton's Distributing is a multi-state importer and alcoholic beverage wholesaler providing transportation, warehousing, clearing, and distribution to multi-state retailers. Gordon Logistics is a 3PL serving all markets east of the Mississippi. I learned of the opportunity through Board Prospects which I was familiar with because of my involvement with PDA!
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    After more than 20 years as an executive working for publicly traded companies like AT&T, Lucent Technologies, McDonald’s and Castle Metals, I decided to found LINAR Advisors in early 2015; a manufacturing operations and supply chain consulting firm with clients across North America, Europe and Africa. I heard about PDA in late 2015 and decided to join as a member here in Chicago in early 2016. LINAR Advisors became a PDA Sponsor in 2017.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    As a founding member of the Charlotte Chapter, I discovered the PDA network expands far and wide. Thanks to referrals from friends within PDA, I was encouraged to pursue an independent board position with a $1 billion national commercial construction company. I was able to leverage my 25 years of leadership in commercial construction, previous board experience, and knowledge of employee-owned companies to be named to the board of this third generation, family-owned firm with a stellar industry reputation. This opportunity was exactly what I hoped for as a leadership consultant and construction executive.
  • Date
    April 19, 2021
    Prior to joining PDA in early 2019 at the recommendation of Cindy Burrell, I’ve served as CEO/President/CFO and Independent Board Director for family enterprises and corporations.  Thankful for earning my MBA in Finance at Ross, University of Michigan and a start in banking, I’ve enjoyed high growth business building roles, corporate turnarounds and startups in manufactured consumer packaged goods as well as consulted for companies in a broad range of industries.
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