For publicly traded companies, successfully communicating information to shareholders and the public depends on the efforts of all employees. That’s why they need a written public disclosure policy that assigns responsibility for the collection and assessment of information, and specifies who will communicate that information and when.
A disclosure policy will help ensure that information is disseminated promptly, credibly, and in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, including the SEC’s Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD). Reg FD will guide many of your disclosure practices.
Hosting the quarterly financial call is a basic task of a public company. Not all investor calls are as effective as they could be, and some can be downright dull and unprofessional.
How, then, should you prepare for an effective earnings call?
Here is a list of 10 do’s and don’ts that will help you get the most out of your quarterly calls:
Mark Twain said that the “difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
There’s a lesson in there for all of us. Say the wrong thing (or even the right thing poorly) and you’re going to underwhelm, disappoint, confuse, or even lose your listeners. And during your company’s earnings call, mistakes like that can cause a crisis.
In the past several months, we have been asked by several of our medical device and diagnostics clients to conduct perception audits. Some were small and focused, with specific and timely topics in mind, whereas others were broad-based with long-term objectives. Often, investors and analysts provide feedback that is difficult to hear — especially when they are giving it to a third party and their comments will be confidential and/or not ascribed to them.
While no one wants to receive (or provide) negative feedback, it is important and often can be the most constructive data. If we could offer only one piece of advice to our clients, it would be to listen openly and objectively to your shareholders and analysts when you ask them for their opinion. Don’t try to talk them out of their viewpoint (for which you just asked them), and don’t discount their opinion because they are at a hedge fund or you think they don’t understand your company. Chances are, whatever their perspective, there are others with the same view. Investors are often happy and willing to offer their feedback — especially on a stock position that is meaningful to their fund performance — in an effort to help management teams communicate better. Let them. We think it’s enormously valuable, as their perceptions are your reality.
You worked hard to prepare for your IPO and made it to the first day of trading. Celebrations are certainly in order, but there is plenty of work in the pipeline. In fact, operating as a newly public company presents a whole new set of challenges.
When it comes to investor relations, the focus of your first 100 days as a public company is to educate and communicate with investors and analysts — and to build on the momentum of the IPO to establish credibility, refine your messaging and vision, and provide the information that key stakeholders need. During this time period, your investor relations (IR) function should be in full swing with set procedures, policies, and designated spokespeople in place. In addition to delivering a well-crafted message, meeting with investors, and responding to analyst requests, we recommend that you create a strategic IR plan for the next 12 months and start preparing to report quarterly earnings for the first time.
Below, we share our view of some of the most important tasks during your first 100 days.
Management teams often hear this advice when communicating with Wall Street — under promise, over deliver. While under promising and over delivering is one of the most effective ways your company can build trust and credibility with the Street, it is much easier said than done.
Why are trust and credibility so important? In large part, the long-term value of your stock hinges on how Wall Street feels about your company and how much they can trust what your management team says. Yet building trust doesn’t come easily, and promising more than can be delivered happens to companies of all sizes and stature.
Senior management teams are very thoughtful about the financial guidance they provide the Street. Internal and external factors are considered and result in ranges that reflect the management team’s best estimates at the time they are provided. Given the amount of brainpower that goes into crafting the guidance, management teams often become frustrated when their analysts go “rogue” by publishing estimates outside of the guidance range. As a former analyst, I can tell you this happens for a variety of reasons.
All public companies face the challenges of helping the investment community understand their business—how they’ll grow, how fast they’ll grow, what investments are required, and what kind of volatility there may be in their financial results. Those companies that can effectively communicate how they will grow, and then execute predictably, have the greatest potential to earn higher-than-average valuations over the long term.
The practice of providing financial guidance is a powerful tool for helping the market realistically frame its expectations for your performance, as well as for decreasing the likelihood that your actual results will miss the Street’s expectations in the near term. And indeed, according to IR Magazine, 68 percent of companies worldwide provide earnings guidance to investors at some point during the year, to create greater transparency for their shareholders and analysts.
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