When attempting to articulate the exciting things happening within a business, management teams often rely on buzzwords and catch phrases to grab investors’ attention and paint a picture of the story they’re trying to tell. The problem, however, is that relying on clichés to bulk up your remarks often has the opposite effect. Having listened to thousands of conference calls, investors have heard it all before and view those hackneyed words and phrases as verbal fluff. Listed below are ten incredibly overused buzzwords that may sound exciting to you at first, but when used with investors, will fall on deaf ears.
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Hiring an investor relations (IR) firm isn’t easy because it’s not a simple decision. A tremendous amount rides on the relationship you are able to cultivate with investors and shareholders, so you need total trust and confidence in your IR partner.
Making the choice more difficult is that IR consulting firms vary widely, and what gets promised up front doesn’t always hold true. The spectrum ranges from firms that offer IR as one of many services to those that specialize only in IR. While it might seem reasonable to just pick one and get to work, the reality is that the relationship you build with investors and Wall Street represents a core part of your business strategy with a real impact on your perception in the markets.
How can you choose wisely? Finding the right fit takes time and research. IR firms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and the right choice requires you to stop and ask some hard questions, starting with these essential eight.
Over time, all management teams want to build relationships, or at least a healthy rapport, with shareholders. Consistent execution of your business plan and proper communication with current and potential shareholders can help you build credibility, which in turn can bolster your company’s valuation and even allow your management team to earn “the benefit of the doubt” when things are not easy.
Last month, we looked at the top 10 ways companies can build credibility with shareholders. This month, we consider the opposite, and explore common ways companies get into hot water. Here are the top 10 credibility busters you want to work hard to avoid.
“Why is there so much short interest in my stock?” Many executives find themselves asking this question, especially when it seems things are going well. Stocks have been “shorted” for many years now, but there is no doubt that the practice has seen much wider use – and brought about more management frustration – in recent years. Doesn’t short selling expose funds to unlimited losses? Why do investors take the risk?
Much like with negative analysts, the most tempting answer – and biggest misconception – is to believe it is personal. It might be true that your short investors don’t like you. But that is not the reason they put in that short order.
Many early-stage companies need consistent access to capital to invest in growing the business, to fund long-term projects, or for R&D. Over the past few decades, alternate modes of funding have evolved to help public companies raise money more expeditiously. One mode of funding is at-the-market (ATM) financing, which emerged in the 1980s with utility companies looking to raise capital on an ongoing basis. From that time on, companies in a broader range of industries, both large cap and small cap, started using it, and when the market dropped in 2008, the number of companies seeking funding through ATMs rose significantly.
Today, many public-company CFOs and CEOs, especially in biotech/life sciences, consider an ATM financing part of their capital-raising arsenal. When deciding on whether or not to put an ATM in place, it is important to understand how an ATM functions, and the pros and cons. Continue Reading
Legendary “60 Minutes” reporter Mike Wallace once said: “If there’s anything that’s important to a reporter, it is integrity. It is credibility.” The same should be true for every management team. Credibility with The Street – both on the buy side and the sell side – is an extremely important element in a successful investor relations program. In this month’s Top 10 list, we offer simple practices that help build and maintain corporate credibility.
- First and Foremost: Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Make sure your message and metrics are consistent.
- Provide the appropriate level of financial transparency. Continue Reading
For publicly traded companies, there are two types of “quiet periods”: First, there’s the heavily regulated, post-IPO period when a company cannot talk about its aims and earnings. Second, there’s the quiet period at the end of each quarter when companies stop communicating with Wall Street once they begin to get a handle on the quarterly results. While this second type isn’t regulated, it is still important to have a defined policy governing this quiet period to both guide your external communications practices (especially with analysts and investors) and to remain in compliance with Reg FD.
Quiet periods have no standardized length. These quarterly periods end, of course, with the earnings conference call and/or press release; but it’s up to each particular company to determine when they begin. Constructing the optimal quiet period will vary, depending on how quickly earnings are determined, as well as how experienced executives are with analyst and investor interactions. Following are some suggestions to help guide your company’s activities as they relate to quiet periods.
Quiet period “don’ts”
- Don’t make exceptions. Quarterly quiet periods received more attention after the enactment of Regulation FD, which prohibits companies from appearing to favor one analyst or investor over another. Once the policy is set, do not make exceptions for anyone. The most important strategy is to make sure you communicate with all audiences consistently and share the same information. Continue Reading
While not all investor meetings require a walk through of your company’s slide deck, meetings with potential new shareholders almost always start with the investor presentation. To ensure that your audience fully appreciates your story, it’s key that your IR deck be clear, concise, and compelling.
Here are 5 tips for refreshing your IR deck to ensure your company’s story and opportunity is properly conveyed:
- Clearly explain your business. The most common mistake we see is companies launching into their story before telling the audience exactly what they do. Make sure you allocate ample time early in the discussion to explain your business. If you lose them in the first ten minutes because they don’t fully understand what you do, the rest of the meeting is a waste of time.
- Make sure your industry numbers are correct. When discussing your market opportunity, make sure your numbers make sense and are correct. The fastest way to kill a meeting is to base your assumptions on figures that you can’t back up factually. Management teams lose credibility when the numbers don’t jive.
- Articulate your growth strategy. Once investors figure out what you do and that you have a large market opportunity, the rest of the discussion is easy and should focus on your growth strategy. Senior management teams need to clearly articulate both near-term and long-term growth strategies for the company. Continue Reading
Many factors — inside and outside your company, even outside your industry — affect how investors perceive you. Some would argue there is no such thing as a misperception; in other words, whatever investors think about your company is your reality.
But perceptions can change. If the prevailing perception is not what your management team wants it to be, there are ways to alter the perspective to be more in line with how you want to be viewed. While the efficient market hypothesis states that share prices reflect all publicly available information, investor expectations about future earnings and profitability are imbedded in today’s stock price. Shaping perceptions about the future is an important goal of successful investor relations.
Stepping outside your company to see how others view it is an essential part of perception building. Assessing how outsiders respond to the following basic questions is a good place to start:
- What does the company do?
- Who are its customers?
- How much risk is there in bringing the company’s new products to market?
- What/who is the competition?
- Does management instill and exude confidence?
- What is management’s track record?
- What do bloggers and others involved in the social media sphere say about the company?
Whether notification comes from an open filing with the SEC, a private letter or an inbound call, the mere presence of an activist investor or fund in a company’s stock is enough to put even the most stalwart management team on edge. In recent years, the growth of specialty and hedge funds has led to a dramatic increase in shareholder activism, which has brought both problems and benefits to investors and managements.
One important point to keep in mind when dealing with activists is that despite their loud voices, activist shareholders’ opinions should not outweigh those of other shareholders. That said, as shareholders, activists’ opinions are important and can be very helpful if approached with an open mind, as most activists seek increases in a company’s share price just as management teams do.
However, interests often diverge with the time frames and methods each would like to see. Activists often seek to unlock existing value as rapidly as possible, often through reorganization and austerity, while management teams often take a longer-term view that focuses on investment and franchise expansion. Depending on the specific case, either approach could be the best path for shareholders as a whole.