While every quarter is different, the “playbook” for preparing senior management for a successful earnings conference call is largely the same. Specifically, the best prepared CEOs and CFOs follow a set of key strategic and tactical steps designed to bring them through a review of all of the essential elements pertinent to the investment community’s analysis of quarterly earnings. In short, CEOs and CFOs that have allocated adequate time to understanding the results, in the context of both internal and external expectations, and are capable of addressing all possible topics with ease and transparency will succeed. Drafting the conference call script is just one piece of this important process. Below, we walk you through these best practices of an effective earnings call.
1. Establish a timeline of deliverables at the outset so all participants know what is expected of them and when.
Map out the mission-critical items, such as preparing the earnings press release and all the necessary financial tables and disclosures; the requisite SEC filings; the drafting of the conference call scripts and any supporting documents (e.g., slides); the creation of a Q&A document; and the dry-run.
Include administrative tasks such as arranging for the call itself, creating the queue order in which analysts will ask questions on the call, obtaining the proper pre-clearance of the press release with the Nasdaq or NYSE and so forth.
Be mindful of potential bottlenecks such as audit committee approval and legal review.
When done well, an Analyst Day (or Investor Day) is an extremely valuable investor relations tool. Typically a half- or full-day event your company hosts for buy- and sell-side analysts, an analyst day meeting can significantly enhance an analyst’s understanding of your company’s fundamentals, as well as aid them in better valuing your stock. At Westwicke, we have participated in hundreds of analyst days over our careers, and this experience lends valuable third-party perspective that has helped many companies hold successful analyst day events. To that end, I offer some do’s and don’ts for analyst days compiled over Westwicke’s years on Wall Street:
Do hold an analyst day every 18-24 months. The event provides investors with a deeper-than-normal dive into your company, and helps demonstrate your management team’s breadth and strategic vision.
Do provide unique content. Think about including members of the management team that investors don’t normally interact with. Consider bringing in physician experts or customers to provide an outsider’s perspective on your products or market. In the planning stages, ask both buy- and sell-side analysts for input.
At this point in the year, many companies are preparing to issue 2013 guidance as part of their calendar 4Q earnings call. We thought it would be helpful to share some insights and best practices about the most effective ways for your company to issue earnings guidance.
Be realistic. Trying to figure out what you’re going to earn a year from now is difficult, and occasionally companies trip themselves up because they issue guidance that they know in their hearts is not attainable. Managements should honestly assess their prospects for the next year, haircut their internal numbers a bit, and provide guidance that feels 100% attainable.
Range or point estimate? Issuing a guidance range is always the best answer. As you consider this range, make sure it is appropriate for your company’s size and business model. Too wide of a range implies that you may not have a good handle on your business. Too narrow a range doesn’t leave any wiggle room. Continue Reading