Steve Jobs once remarked that “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” That quote rings as true as ever when we talk to board members from all walks of life and experience with technology – that when they use a product that solves a real challenge, the technology fades into the background.
This was vividly illustrated during a recent conversation we had with Dr. Edward Potter, a Director at Downey Federal Credit Union. In our wide-ranging conversation, we discussed his journey using technology in the board room, how at 80 years old and two decades serving as a director he found OnBoard a natural and intuitive improvement throughout the entire board meeting life cycle. The following excerpt from the conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Dr. Potter, thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us about your experience and your story of how OnBoard has helped your organization. Before we dig deeper, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your board experience?
Dr. Potter: Well, they talk about board members being a little bit older. I am the 80 years old right now and have been on the board for 19 years. I was appointed during a period when the board was struggling. Soon after my appointment, we went through a complete board rebuilding and restructuring exercise. Over 19 years we have gone from struggling at 39 million to today we’re hitting about 240 million. So, it has been a good move. Bottom line, I think I am typical of many of the board members, I may be the oldest, but some are getting close to me.
During your successful tenure, what motivated DFCU to look at a board portal? Why make the decision to go paperless and move towards digital board meetings?
Dr. Potter: I’ll tell you why, when I became the new assistant superintendent, this was many years ago when school districts were getting one free computer from Apple and that was the beginning of this whole (digital) revolution. So, I bought the first Macintosh in the entire school district. And once my office got that, in just a couple of months the entire district wanted to have their own. I have seen what can happen when you start something with technology and it really goes well. I think and see the same in OnBoard. I can see growth just like that and remember I wasn’t afraid then and I’m not afraid now.
“I feel the same way about OnBoard. I can see growth just like I saw when I bought the first Apple Macintosh.”
We were kind of talking about computer several years ago and iPads still a relatively new idea. With all that in mind, we started looking for a way to bring computers into our board room. And because of this, when we looked and compared board meeting software, chose OnBoard.
So now that OnBoard is powering your board of directors, how has OnBoard impacted your organization?
Dr. Potter: OnBoard has totally changed what we do in the Credit Union. For example, the President won’t allow us to start the meetings until all of our computers are turned on and ready to go. That’s a big impact to start with.
The thing I liked the best about OnBoard is, we used to have over 100 pages on our board packets that had to be typed and duplicated and mailed – you know, it was a pain. Today with the updated digital documents, there’s no trying to mail something ahead of time and getting it. Everyone just has it at their fingertips.
With OnBoard, you’re sitting in a meeting and someone says ‘let’s turn to page 72,’ all you have to do is push on the little magnifying glass and punch 72 and you’re there. If the print puts a little narrow, you take your fingers and spread it out, it gets larger – and at 80 years old I want it to be larger text than some of the others.
“It’s really big, it’s changed our lives on the board. We’re completely thrilled with OnBoard.”
A critical part of a successful board meeting is the work done before everyone is in the meeting room. How has OnBoard impacted communication on at the board level?
Dr. Potter: A nice thing is we can get information from Yvonne, our Executive Administrative Assistant and the CEO during the month before we have our meetings and it’s always up to date.
At Downey, we meet face to face, but almost always there is at least one board member who needs to be remote. Previously they would call in but it would be difficult to communicate. Today with OnBoard, they have their computers in front of them, and we can participate and respond as if they were in the same room.
As we grow and expand to other locations whether, through mergers or opening new offices, OnBoard will be a great way to work together and is the perfect way to keep in contact.
“OnBoard is our perfect connection to everybody, it expands our possibilities”
Looking toward the future, what additional possibilities do you see with OnBoard, do you think it will continue on driving value?
Dr. Potter: What we do at Downey is we just use the “kiss system” – Keep It Simple, Stupid. OnBoard’s simplicity, how clean it is, the ease of use, will keep us going back. I think in the long run, it’s going to be very valuable, we see a future of possibilities. Today we might have to have a vote online, and we do that! We’re doing things online we’ve never been able to do before.
“I think in the long run, it’s going to be very valuable, we see the future possibilities. We can do things, stuff we were never able to do before”
One place we have extended OnBoard is in Succession Planning. We have a supervisory committee and we insisted that they also be added to every board meeting on the portal. That way they are 100% up to date with everything the board does. When I step down, immediately one of the supervisory committee members is 100% current on everything we’re doing and one of them will automatically be chosen to be on the board.
Before we let you go, is there anything else you want our audience to know about how DFCU is using OnBoard?
Dr. Potter: Before we end, I want to say the OnBoard Team is wonderful. You are the reason OnBoard works. OnBoard has changed us, I’m telling you, I am the world’s best supporter and I am the least qualified on computers in the entire board, so trust me. I was the hardest one to convince and I love OnBoard and our Implementation Manager, Jenni – she was so wonderful getting us started off on the right foot!
Board meeting technology needs to meet the needs of its users, that means designing a board governance workflow that conspires to make the entire experience easier and more intuitive than paper or email ever was. Because when the entire board is using OnBoard, it truly transforms meeting outcomes. We invite you to talk to our solution experts and see how OnBoard can digitalize your boardroom with an intuitive and accessible experience for everyone – no matter their technical background.
About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.