Collaboration & Communication – When Everyone Wins

Maureen F. Morrison
Board Director & Audit Chair, Safeguard Scientifics Inc. & ePlus Inc.

Over 39 years with PwC, Maureen Morrison established a stellar reputation as a financial expert, with deep technology expertise and trusted advisor to Fortune 500 and private equity-backed companies. Maureen is a highly accomplished senior executive with diversified expertise in software, tech-enabled solutions and consulting. In advising her technology clients, Maureen was able to help them and their financial sponsors, such as The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital.

Recognized for her strong ability to build consensus in a collaborative manner even under the most complex situations, Maureen guided her clients through successful mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, debt offerings and secondary public offerings.  During her career with PwC Maureen was a senior leader for the firm’s Atlanta Technology Practice. She also served on numerous committees including National Nominating (Chair), National Admissions (Member) and as Chief Auditor.

Establishing Trust & Value

Maureen was referred to Summit Executive Resources through a mutual connection, Joe Goodwin, Founder & CEO of The Goodwin Group.  Joe’s firm represents more than 40 years of experience in the executive and board search profession.  Melissa Henderson, the CEO of Summit, and Joe met while serving on a panel at George Washington University regarding how to land on corporate boards.  Melissa and Joe struck a collaborative relationship and even though Joe was in the business of retained search, he did not view Summit’s model as a threat or competitor to his business. He continues to view his relationship with Summit as an extension of his network. Melissa has a high regard and level of trust in Joe.

Before engaging Summit, Maureen felt that there was no playbook for landing on corporate boards. She had networked through other audit chairs, colleagues, retained executive search firms, other networking efforts and tapping into a variety of databases. Nothing was materializing. Maureen not only wanted to serve on corporate boards but expressed that she needed help evaluating board opportunities.  Maureen and Melissa agreed that not all boards are great boards.  After several discussions regarding Summit’s process and defining the aspects of a healthy board, Maureen and Melissa decided to engage.  Melissa really liked Maureen’s collaborative style, which also proved highly valuable as the engagement proceeded.

The First Successful Outcome
On the outset of the engagement, Maureen and Melissa agreed that they would not concern themselves with where the board opportunity originated – Maureen’s network, Summit’s network or some other avenue.  They agreed that they were in this together and in turn embarked on quite the two-year journey. Maureen and Summit considered a variety of opportunities and decided to not pursue several of them as they were not healthy board situations.  Preserving Maureen’s reputation and credibility was tantamount.

Maureen’s first board success was realized through a six-month pursuit that resulted in a board seat and audit chairmanship with Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. (NYSE: SFE). The opportunity presented itself through a call that had originated to PwC from a Safeguard board member and PwC retired partner who contacted partner relations at PwC. Given the research, guidance and counsel provided by Melissa and her team,

Maureen felt prepared for each and every one-on-one interview.  Although the board selection process was quite extended, Melissa kept Maureen focused, patient and positive throughout process which ultimately led to Maureen’s appointment to the board in October of 2018.

A Real Close One

During the Safeguard process, Summit identified a board seat opportunity with a multi-billion dollar, publicly traded technology company.  Summit’s market research analyst advised Melissa on the board resignation dynamics and helped to sort through the likelihood that there was an opportunity actually outside of proxy. The analyst mapped out all of the key players and Summit’s network.  Through several calls and emails, Summit exhausted all of their network connections.  This meant a cold call, which is an arena where Melissa thrives. Through multiple efforts, contacts and cold calls, Melissa received a return call from the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee.  He valued Summit’s unique model and loved Maureen’s credentials.

Maureen proceeded with several rounds of phone and in-person interviews, Subsequently, Melissa received the thumbs up from the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee regarding Maureen’s candidacy. Maureen and Melissa were five yards from the finish line but hold it … another candidate came from nowhere. Melissa and Maureen agreed that  it was their fiduciary responsibility to proceed with interviewing the other candidate.  While the feedback regarding Maureen’s candidacy was very positive, the other candidate came with a stronger domain experience. The team at Summit brushed themselves off and continued the pursuit of Maureen’s next board seat.

Another Successful Outcome
A few months later, Maureen received a call from a colleague at PwC regarding another board opportunity. Maureen and Melissa evaluated the board opportunity with ePlus, Inc (NASDAQ: PLUS), Summit’s market research analyst pumped out research insights which Maureen considered a tremendous value. Although the opportunity was moving rather quickly, Maureen wanted to ensure this was the right board. Although Summit did not find this opportunity, Maureen shared that Melissa and her team’s support, insight and counsel were instrumental with her confidence in accepting the board seat with ePlus

Maureen’s engagement is now concluded and the Summit team really misses her open communication, candor, sense of humor, perseverance and collaboration. At the conclusion of the engagement, Maureen shared with Melissa how much she valued Summit’s methodical and thorough approach, as well as Melissa’s ability to keep her prepared, focused and patient. Maureen is way up in the ranks as one of the best clients that Summit has had the honor to work for and that she continues to be a reference for future potential clients of Summit.