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
A “miss” relative to a company’s financial guidance can happen to even the best management teams. Misses can arise from a hiccup in company operations or they can be related to factors outside your company’s control. In either case, the ways in which you assess the problem, communicate it, and follow up in later quarters will have a powerful and lasting impact on the Street’s views of management’s credibility and thus your stock’s long-term valuation.
Assessing the problem
Before you communicate with the Street, make sure you’ve honestly assessed the reason for the miss and its ongoing impact to your results. Was this merely a soft quarter for seasonal or other factors, or was there a one-time event? While it’s possible that ongoing results won’t be impacted, it’s also possible that greater forces are at play: a business segment could be maturing, or your internal growth expectations may have to be moderated. Even if the miss is truly related to an issue out of your control, such as a reimbursement change, make sure you critically evaluate the impact before you communicate any revised guidance.
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.