Dining with one of your analysts can be nerve-racking, but it really doesn’t need to be.
Sharing a meal at a restaurant should make for a less formal meeting than one conducted in a boardroom. The mood should prove to be friendlier and less business-like, and conversations rarely venture deep into the numbers.
Over dinner, analysts frequently probe for “color” related to previously disclosed themes to gather the kind of details that can animate their coverage and talking points for investors.
More often than not, analysts just want to nurture your relationship as much as you do; they’re not usually trying to pry out a piece of non-public information. That said, always remember that the same rules governing the disclosure of non-public information apply whether you’re in the office or a bistro.
A dinner with your analyst is an opportunity to relay your management style, a bit about your corporate culture, and more. Here are some tips:
- Pick a quiet, neutral spot. The goal of the meeting should be to communicate easily and foster future conversations. Consequently, dinner with an analyst is not the time to try out the newest (and loudest) hotspot in Manhattan or to experiment with anything requiring plastic bibs, eating with your hands, or consuming sauce so spicy that it draws tears! (An exception is if you know the analyst well and the two of you share a common food interest, then feel free to be adventurous.) But in general, more traditional foods are usually a good choice. Important caveat: Do not forget to ask the analyst for food preferences ahead of time. You don’t want to take a vegetarian to a steakhouse, for example.
- Remember the meeting’s primary purpose. You’ll likely spend hours on the phone with your analysts during the course of your relationship. Take this time to get to know them a bit. In these less formal settings, people tend to share a bit about their family or hobbies, information that can serve as a future icebreaker on conference calls and updates. Look at dinner as a way to build rapport and find common ground. Funny stories about kids or pets can contribute to the fluidity of future interactions.
- Keep the tone friendly but professional. This is a business meeting, not just a social call. Yes, the idea is for the two of you to develop greater familiarity with each other, and you can engage in a dialogue that hopefully will lead to a long-term professional relationship. But don’t go too far. Loose lips sink ships. Limit drinks to one or two, and end the meal in a timely fashion, usually after an hour or 90 minutes. Ideally, you’ll leave dinner having added some color to your story and with a more open line of communication.
- Keep your business-related conversation based exclusively on what has been disclosed. Use phrases like “what we have disclosed publicly” and “I can’t answer that question because we haven’t disclosed that, but what I can tell you is…” Analysts don’t want to receive non-public information any more than you want to disclose it. Sometimes it is helpful, if both a CEO and CFO are in attendance, to double-check what has been said before stating something. For example, something like: “Susan, can you remind me what we have said about salesforce headcount?” This step can often save face. If you are not sure what has been disclosed, do not be afraid to tell the analyst that you’ll have to get back to them. This actually gives you a reason to have a follow-up conversation, which you can use, in part, to clear up any points if the analyst is writing a research note.
- Have a few non-material anecdotes handy. Analysts love to hear blurbs from sales people or feedback from doctors. Analysts like it when they can round out their communications with investors with a little story or two. It gives investors confidence that the analyst knows the company well, which means the investors will come back for more insight later.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. If you are a CEO or CFO, you’ve had plenty of business meetings over dinner. Treat this one like the others and relax and demonstrate your leadership persona. Have fun! And try not to dribble food on your shirt.
While we probably can’t do very much to help you keep cocktail sauce off of your clothing, we can provide valuable insight about how to get more out of your relations with analysts and investors. Just contact us.