USA Truck taps retired Walmart exec Susan Chambers as new board member

by Kim Souza ( 611 views 

Susan Chambers, a retired executive with Wal-Mart Stores, has been named to the Board at Van Buren-based USA Truck. The move is a result of the trucking company’s effort to strengthen its governance structure, leverage technology expertise with human resource skills that Chambers brings to the table.

Aside from Chamber’s corporate expertise, she also brings gender diversity to largely male-dominated board. Chamber’s appointment comes on the heals of the the addition of retired Major Gen. Barbara Faulkenberry to the company board of directors in January.

“Susan’s vast experience as a senior officer of one of America’s iconic companies will assist us in areas that are critical to the success of our Company – most notably, driver and staff retention as well as leveraging technology to enhance operational effectiveness,” USA Truck Board Chairman Robert Peiser said in a statement.

He said the two new directors bring unique perspective and operational experience that will be helpful in guiding the company’s management team as it works to continue transforming the business, strengthening its position as a capacity solutions provider and driving return on invested capital.

The once troubled USA Truck has pulled together two consecutive years of growth, with full year 2015 net income reaching $11.069 million, up 76.1% compared to 2014 net income. Fourth quarter net income of 39 cents per share blew past the consensus estimate of 23 cents. Fiscal 2014 saw the company end five consecutive years of losses. The 2014 net income of $6.285 million was a more than $15 million swing from the $9.11 million loss in 2013.

Before being promoted to chief human resource officer in 2006, Chambers held executive positions in multiple corporate functions including risk management and information technology. During her tenure, she was named to Fortune magazine’s list of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” five years in a row. She joined Walmart in 1999 as a vice president in merchandising and supply chain systems. Chambers spent 14 years with Hallmark Cards holding management roles in IT and finance.

Susan Chambers
Susan Chambers

She holds a bachelor’s degree from William Jewell College and serves on the Arkansas State Board of Education, William Jewell Board of Trustees, and Economics Arkansas. Chambers’ previously held board seats at Arvest Bank and the Walmart Foundation Board.

Denise Natishan, senior partner at Rogers-based Cameron Smith & Associates, was the recruiter for USA Truck in the director search. She told Talk Business & Politics that the company was looking for a diverse candidate, someone with strong IT background and a someone with ties to Northwest Arkansas. Chambers was a perfect fit, she said.

“We are seeing more companies looking to expand their board diversity and having qualified females fill empty seats is proving to be good business,” she said. “USA Truck management is progressive in their thinking in wanting to have ‘Arkansas blood’ representation in their board room. There is a wealth of talent right here at home that could add expertise to a number of Arkansas boards.”

With just more than 51% of the U.S. population being female, their presence in board rooms of Fortune 500 companies is under-represented at just 17%. Natishan said educating companies on the importance of board diversity has been a focus of Cameron Smith & Associates for the past few years. She said companies are becoming more receptive to gender diversity as well as ethnic and geographic diversity and she expects to see a shift in the next year or two in that direction.

A report by Catalyst found that companies with at least three women on their boards outperformed those with fewer females. The return on equity for the board with 3 women or more average 16.7%, compared to 11.5% of those with fewer woman.

Natishan said getting that first public board appointment is the hardest for women, but once they get the chance to serve that opens the door for more to follow.