As an executive, you understand the importance of formulating a long term capital sourcing strategy that will provide you the cash necessary to support your company’s growth. You are constantly asked in investor meetings: “How much cash do you have on the balance sheet?” “How long will that last you?” So how do you prepare to ensure that your business remains well capitalized?
The Westwicke Blog is designed to deliver information and insights into the ever-changing world of investor relations and the capital markets, with a specific focus on the healthcare industry.
It would be great if you could attend every investor conference you’re invited to. After all, they’re an excellent way to tell your story, deepen your relationships with analysts who cover you, begin new relationships with analysts who don’t yet cover you, and ultimately target and attract new investors.
But it’s impossible for any public company to go to all of them. There are more than 100 Wall Street conferences in healthcare alone, and many more focused on growth-oriented companies of any industry.
In the past several months, several of our Medical Technology clients have participated in investment bank-sponsored conferences or traveled to meet investors in one-on-one meetings. In preparation for these meetings, we work with our clients to create a list of topical and provocative questions that investors are likely to ask, and we help to prepare scripted answers. We also create investor profiles ahead of every investor meeting so that our clients have information at their fingertips on competitive share positions, the investor’s background, and our insight as to focus areas for that particular investor.
While most questions that investors and analysts ask in these meetings pertain to the particulars of the business, revenue growth, and market dynamics, we have come to expect the unexpected. We know that thorough preparation is crucial.
A CEO transition can be a time of great risk for a company’s stock as Wall Street attempts to determine all that the change signals. If a change in leadership is not communicated properly it could make your investors nervous. Effectively communicating the CEO succession can help boost confidence in investors — and prevent long term harm to your share price.
Here are a few guidelines to help effectively communicate a CEO transition:
When it comes to investor relations (IR), remember that your company’s Internet presence often makes the first impression. In today’s frenetic capital markets environment, potential investors will often use your corporate website to quickly understand the fundamentals of your business before they decide to allocate time to a meeting with management.
The primary purpose of having a corporate website, of course, is so that you can easily share your company’s “story” with the marketplace. In order to be effective, the story must be communicated thoroughly, accurately and consistently across your website and all of your digital media, in a way that is easy for visitors to consume, understand and navigate.
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.
All management teams and boards of directors want to know how they’re doing. For public healthcare companies, the wide variety of stock indices makes it easy to draw a comparison with peer companies. But finding the right index is key to making a meaningful comparison. Just because an index includes “technology,” “healthcare” or “mid-cap” in its name doesn’t mean it’s right for you. And the most popular indices are not always the right choices.
Fund managers, especially those who may not understand nuances in various healthcare sectors, will use an index to evaluate your firm’s performance. But, comparing against the wrong index can have serious implications: for instance, if an index that includes many larger cap companies (over $1 billion in market capitalization) is rising, but smaller companies aren’t sharing this momentum, then your smaller firm will compare poorly against the index – and undeservedly so. Further, smaller companies are more vulnerable to certain financial issues than multi-billion dollar firms; access to capital, product pipelines and market volatility can have an outsized effect on a small-cap firm’s stock performance.
Smaller-cap companies, like many of those in the health services, life sciences and medical technology sectors, experience more volatile stock price action than some of their mid- and large- cap peers. These small companies tend to lack the liquidity of larger firms and are therefore more vulnerable to news events (and often, big price movements will occur for no reason at all). For the executives and investor relations professionals of these companies, such price movements can be gut-wrenching.
In their quest for a solution to stock price volatility, some management teams monitor stock price movements on a daily basis and try to find explanations for this movement. This short-term focus is often non-productive and can even be distracting. It’s better for executives to concentrate on building long-term, sustainable shareholder value by providing the Street with identifiable milestones and successfully achieving those milestones.