The Board of Directors, which is elected by the shareholders, is the ultimate decision-making body of the Company except with respect to those matters reserved to the shareholders. It selects the senior management team, which is charged with the conduct of the Company's business. Having selected the senior management team, the Board acts as an advisor and counselor to senior management and oversees and monitors its performance.
The Board of Directors has the legal responsibility for overseeing the affairs of the Company and, thus, an obligation to keep informed about the Company's business and strategies. This involvement enables the Board to provide guidance to management in formulating and developing plans and to exercise independent decision-making authority on matters of importance to the Company. Acting as a full Board and through the Board's three standing committees, the Board is actively involved in the Company's strategic planning process.
Each year, typically in the spring, summer and fall, senior management sets aside specific periods to develop, discuss and refine the Company's long-range operating plan and overall corporate strategy. Specific operating priorities are developed to effectuate the Company's long-range plan. Some of the priorities are short-term in focus; others are based on longer-term planning horizons. Senior management reviews the insights and conclusions reached at its meetings with the Board over the course of several Board meetings and seeks approval of the overall corporate strategy and long-range operating plan at Board meetings that usually occur in the summer and fall, including a two to three day offsite retreat in July dedicated to strategic planning. These meetings are focused on corporate strategy and involve both management presentations and input from the Board regarding the assumptions, priorities and objectives that will form the basis for management's strategies and operating plans. To the extent necessary to support strategy, the Board, with assistance from outside advisors, also from time to time evaluates other matters such as the Company's corporate and capital structure.
At most Board meetings, the Board substantively reviews the Company's progress against its strategic plans and exercises oversight and decision-making authority regarding strategic areas of importance and associated funding authorizations.
In addition, Board meetings held throughout the year target specific strategies and critical areas for extended, focused Board input and discussion.
The Board's role is inextricably linked to the development and review of the Company's strategic plan. Through these processes, the Board, consistent with good corporate governance, encourages the long-term success of the Company by exercising sound and independent business judgment on the strategic issues that are important to the Company's business.
The Board and Board committees agenda setting process generally involves all directors. The Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary initially develop a proposed agenda for Board meetings with the understanding that certain items pertinent to the advisory and monitoring functions of the Board be brought to it periodically by the Chief Executive Officer for review and/or decision. For example, the Board reviews the annual corporate budget. Proposed agenda items that fall within the scope of responsibilities of a Board committee are initially developed by the chair of that committee with the Secretary. After initial agendas are developed, the Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary discuss coordination of the agendas and make further modifications, as appropriate. Board and committee agendas and materials related to agenda items are provided to Board members sufficiently, typically at least one week, in advance of regular meetings to allow the directors to review and provide feedback on the agendas and related materials and to prepare for discussion of the items at the meetings. More recently the Board has added an executive session at the beginning of each of its regular meetings to allow directors, after they have reviewed the materials provided to them in advance of the meeting, to provide additional guidance on the structure and areas of focus and emphasis of each meeting.
At the invitation of the Board and its committees, members of senior management attend Board and committee meetings or portions thereof for the purpose of participating in discussions. Generally, discussions of matters to be considered by the Board and its committees are facilitated by the manager responsible for that function or area of the Company's operations. In addition, Board members have free access to all other members of management and employees of the Company and, as necessary and appropriate in their discretion, the Board and its committees may, and do, consult with independent legal, financial and accounting advisors to assist in their duties to the Company and its shareholders.
The chairs of the committees of the Board each preside over the portion of the Board meetings at which the principal items to be considered are within the scope of the authority of their respective committees. The chair of each committee determines the frequency, length and agenda of meetings of that committee. Sufficient time to consider the agenda items is provided. Materials related to agenda items are provided to the committee members sufficiently, typically at least one week, in advance of regular meetings to allow the members to prepare for discussion of the items at the meeting.
Executive sessions or meetings of outside directors without management present are held regularly at the beginning and end of Board meetings, and, depending on directors' desire, from time to time during Board and committee meetings. The Chairman of the Board generally presides at executive sessions of non-management directors, except that the chairs of the committees of the Board preside at executive sessions of non-management directors held following meetings of their committees or at which the principal items to be considered are within the scope or authority of their committees.