Tag: Market Value

How CEOs can develop a Corporate Purpose that improves their Financial Performance.

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Recent Analysis finds that 2 components are critical for successful Corporate Purpose projects.

A new research study that has just been summarised in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review analyses the power of Corporate Purpose to influence a company’s financial performance.

The study analysed 429 companies, carried out proprietary research among more than 450,000 employees, and their findings are fascinating.

Here are just three of their most significant conclusions:

  1. A strong sense of Corporate Purpose does not lead to any improvement in Financial Performance on its own

Companies with a strong Corporate Purpose were judged by their employees’ agreement with statements such as “My work has special meaning; this is not just a job”; “I feel good about the way we contribute to the community” and “I’m proud to tell others I work here”.

Although such companies generated a strong sense of purpose among their employees, and created a workforce that was motivated and engaged, the study found that such companies “weren’t correlated with firm financial performance in either direction”.

In short, strong Corporate Purpose on its own has no significant effect on a Company’s Financial Performance.

But when Corporate Purpose is combined with one other critical Corporate quality, the effect is transformational.

  1. When Corporate Purpose is combined with Management Clarity, however, it significantly improves both Financial Performance and Stock Returns

In companies where strong Corporate Purpose was combined with Clarity of Management Leadership, there was a significant financial impact.

Management clarity was measured by employee comments like: “Management makes its expectations clear” and “Management has a clear view of where the organisation is going”.

The report finds that Companies which combine these two dimensions – Corporate Purpose plus Management Clarity – “exhibit superior accounting and stock market performance”.

In fact, the report found that “a portfolio of high ‘Purpose-Clarity’ firms earn significant positive risk-adjusted stock returns in the future, up to 7.6% annually”.

But it is not simply the combination of Corporate Purpose and Management Clarity that drives this dramatic change.

There is one more critical ingredient that drives Corporate Performance.

  1. ‘Middle Management Engagement’ is the most critical influence in the successful conversion of Corporate Purpose into superior Financial and Stock Performance

Not surprisingly, the research found that “the more senior the employee, the stronger is the perceived purpose of the organisation”, because most senior employees are more involved in the development of Corporate Purpose – and are often incentivised according to its principles.

More significantly, however, the research also found that “it is solely the middle managers and salaried professionals that drive the relation between high ‘Purpose-Clarity’ organisations and financial performance.”

This is because middle management drive the day-to-day decision-making that enables Corporate Purpose to be put into Corporate Practice.

Or, as George Serafeim, one of the authors of the report summarised – middle managers can become:

“Managers who buy into the vision of the company and can make daily decisions that guide the firm in the right direction.”

They convert Management Clarity and Corporate Purpose into day-to-day decision-making:

“This clarity enables the translation of purpose from an abstract idea to specific actions that employees have confidence will be recognised (and rewarded) by their superiors”.

Like many similar analyses, we see that grand statements of Corporate Purpose are worthless without real Employee Engagement translated into daily actions.

At Reputation, we help listed Corporations to identify, define and implement a Corporate Purpose that defines their Corporate Culture and builds their Corporate Value.

If you are a CEO of a listed Corporation and you would like to discuss how we could help you to clarify your Corporate Purpose, please contact us via our website, or by email to Connect@TheReputationPartnership.com and we will reply – in strictest confidence – by return.

The 10 ways that CEOs must engage with Analysts.

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Our latest research provides clear guidelines to help CEOs create more valuable Analyst relationships.

Research has consistently confirmed that Analyst perceptions of Corporate Leadership is the No.1 most important influence on Investment Decisions and Share Valuation.

But our most recent research confirms that CEOs do not control the management of Analyst relations with the same discipline as they manage many other – less critical – parts of their executive responsibilities.

We carried out a series of confidential interviews with a representative sample of Buy-Side and Sell-Side Analysts who cover Asia-based Corporates.

Our aim was to identify the most persuasive influences that shaped their positive and negative impressions of CEOs.

And we found that Analysts were consistent and crystal-clear about their requirements from CEO engagement:

10 Principles For Effective Analyst Engagement

Throughout all our interviews there were 10 core principles that consistently created a perception of ‘CEO Added Value’ – regardless of sector.

Different Analysts gave different priorities to each characteristic, but the core guidelines were always the same.

These principles are detailed here, with the relative importance of each principle ranked by qualitative evaluation:

  1. Strategic Clarity

Most important of all, Analysts gave a much higher value to CEOs who were able to communicate a clear, compelling rationale for their Strategic Decisions.

This Strategic Clarity demands a clear, consistent description of their primary Corporate Objective, a persuasive articulation of their Strategic Options, an Option Analysis including their respective upsides and downsides – resulting in a clear, powerful support for their chosen Strategic Direction.

Analysts attributed a significant Premium to those CEOs who delivered impressive Strategic Clarity – and a significant Discount to those who were less effective.

  1. Industry Vision

A CEO’s Vision for the future of their Industry in the mid- and long-term is absolutely fundamental.

Vision determines the potential value of the CEOs entire Business Strategy. It must shape every decision, and every value judgement.

Analysts are obviously specialists in their sector, and they encounter many different Visions of the future, and have access to all relevant data on which to make their evaluations.

Every CEO must therefore be able to clarify a persuasive view of future trends, threats, opportunities & implications, based on facts, presented with power and passion.

  1. Honest Dialogue

Analysts place enormous value on having access to open, one-on-one dialogue with CEOs.

This personal dialogue and relationship shapes trust, confidence and empathy – and enables a clearer understanding of the CEOs Vision, Strategy and Issues.

This dialogue must always be informal, unscripted, one-on-one contact – preferably face-to-face, definitely on con calls.

The CEOs who provide the most personal, unscripted access are invariably the ones who are most confident in their own abilities and decisions, and – consequently – the ones who command the highest ‘Leadership Premium’.

  1. Consistent Delivery

On many occasions, Analysts have found themselves impressed by a CEOs ability to articulate a persuasive Business Strategy based on a convincing Industry Vision – only to hear of inconsistent actions or directions with little advance notice or explanation.

This creates confusion and doubt.

Analysts fully appreciate the need to move fast in order to seize opportunities or mitigate threats.

But they frequently hear of Management Changes, for example, with no warning or explanation.

Not only does this make them doubt the decision, but it also undermines their CEO confidence.

Analysts have most confidence in CEOs who deliver management actions that directly relate to their Vision and Strategy.

And if there are necessary variations, they value advance notice and a persuasive explanation.

  1. Future Focus

The more obsessed a CEO sounds with their Short-Term results, the less confident Analysts feel about their long-term potential.

Institutional investors assign premium value to Corporations with CEOs who have identified a persuasive Industry Vision, a powerful Business Strategy – and the Management Capability to deliver.

The more focus placed on Short-Term results suggests Short-Term problems and Short-Term focus – neither of which, obviously, lead to premium Valuation.

  1. Conscious Transparency

In conversations with Analysts, CEOs often try to avoid, minimise or dismiss developments which could threaten their Vision, Strategy or Plan.

That never works.

It often makes things worse.

Analysts give much more respect to a CEO who is both alert to potential new threats and challenges, honest regarding their implications, and prepared for response.

  1. Competitive Respect

According to Analysts, many CEOs are hardwired to either dismiss the strengths of competitors, or to diminish their threat.

Obviously, Analysts are specialists in their sectors and have a full understanding of the competitive landscape. They are not fooled by a CEOs feigned confidence.

Analysts therefore place a high value on CEOs who are honest, open and respectful.

And, not surprisingly, they have greater trust for CEOs who exhibit a thorough awareness of their competitors’ strengths and threats, because they will be better prepared to defend against them.

  1. Critical Visibility

One of the most common and criticised characteristics of CEOs, it seems, is to ‘disappear’ when there are significant problems, issues or challenges for their business.

When the going gets tough, many CEOs go into hiding.

Yet these are precisely the times when CEO contact and dialogue is most critical and most valuable.

Challenges and Crises are the ultimate test of Vision, Strategy, Transparency, Authenticity and Capability.

These are opportunities to add enormous value to the CEO brand.

The more a CEO hides and avoids contact, the worse the impression of their courage and competence.

And the more they avoid direct dialogue, the more they are missing a valuable opportunity to engage, impress and add long-term personal authority.

  1. Financial Credibility

Many CEOs are more comfortable talking about Vision, Strategy, Management Actions and broad Financial Issues – but are less comfortable leading discussions that drill down into Financial Details.

As a result, they often ‘hide behind the CFO’, leaving responsibility for communication of all financial details to their CFOs.

Analysts, however, have far greater respect for CEOs who are confident debating the numbers, convincing in financial discussions.

This doesn’t mean that they have to lead all finance discussions – of course not.

But they must be happy to lead discussions about the most important financial issues, exhibiting a confident grasp of the most critical details.

  1. Corporate Consistency

It’s critical for Analysts to see the CEO’s Vision and Strategy communicated throughout the Corporation.

The Leadership team must all be aligned, consistently communicating the same principles as their CEO, and presenting Corporate Actions in the context of the Company’s Vision and Strategy.

This obviously applies to direct Analyst Communication, throughout Earnings Calls, AGMs, Conferences and Investor Websites – but also throughout all internal and external messaging.

Analysts have witnessed several occasions where the CEOs Vision and Strategy is not reflected in further Management Dialogue or Corporate Communications.

The result is simple and profound:

CEO Authority and Credibility is immediately undermined, and Market Valuation is eroded.

Analyst Engagement Demands CEO Dedication, Not Delegation.

All these principles are obvious and logical.

But it is truly amazing how often Corporate CEOs fail to follow them.

CEOs should manage their Analyst engagement with the same discipline and dedication as they manage their business.

They should not be led by their CFOs. They should not be led by their IROs. They must lead all engagement themselves.

Yet, precisely because it is one of the few parts of their role that they cannot delegate or direct, it is often one of the hardest for them to apply.

At Reputation, we provide personal, confidential counsel to CEOs of listed Corporations, advising them how to Position and Present themselves to their most important Stakeholders.

If you are a CEO of a listed Company, and you would like a confidential discussion about how to improve your Investor Engagement, please get in touch with us either via our website or by email to Connect@TheReputationPartnership.com – and we will reply to you by return, in total confidence.

How to protect your Share Price in a Corporate Crisis.

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Every Second Counts

A recent article in the Financial Times analysed Samsung’s response to the Galaxy Note 7 Crisis.

The conclusion was simple:

In a Corporate Crisis, the longer you delay, the bigger the cost.

The Historical Perspective

There are two famous and powerful historical examples that illustrate the point: Johnson and Johnson’s response to the Tylenol Crisis of 1982, and Merck’s response to their Vioxx Crisis of 2000.

Johnson & Johnson made the decision to withdraw its entire stock of Tylenol from shelves within just 5 days of discovering that a small sample of the product had been tampered with cyanide.

The company’s share price declined by 9.5%.

On the other hand, Merck took 1,065 days of obfuscation and regulatory negotiation between 2000-2004 before it eventually confessed to safety issues with its Vioxx pain drug and activated a global recall.

Throughout that 3-year period, Merck stock lost an enormous 46% of its value.

All the textbooks and PhD Theses use these two case studies to prove that fast actions reduce financial impact.

But do those principles still apply today?

Crisis Response Today

Several recent and ongoing Corporate Crises give us good opportunities to compare the impact of speed versus hesitation.

VW is an excellent, live example.

It took VW 476 days after the first evidence of its diesel emissions tests emerged in 2014, before it admitted that 11 million cars were actually equipped with illegal engine software.

Over that ridiculously prolonged period, VW’s share price collapsed by 45%.

Takata, the world’s largest suppliers of automotive air bags, took 194 days after the first report of fatal defects appeared in the New York Times in November 2014, before it confirmed the potentially fatal defects.

That was long enough for its share price to fall by 30%.

Despite all the hype, Samsung has actually handled its Galaxy Note 7 Crisis relatively well.

After first reports of its exploding problem emerged in September 2016, it took Samsung just 42 days to manage their way through 9 different phases of Crisis Management, resulting in the final closure of the entire product line.

The fall in share price was only 5%.

Target moved even faster in 2013. They told 40 million customers that their data had been compromised just 29 days after discovering the breach.

Their share price declined just 3%.

GM’s Mary Barra set a new standard in 2014. It took only 13 days for GM’s new CEO to admit to faulty ignition systems and start recalling vehicles.

As a result, GM’s shares lost only 6% in the next quarter.

On the other hand, Yahoo waited 55 days after discovering their data breach to tell 500 million customers in September 2016.

That delay could just have cost them US$5 billion of Verizon’s money.

The Speed of a Tweet

Social Media and Digital News make the need for speed greater than ever.

According to recent research by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, 28% of Corporate Crises have become international news within 1 hour.

Yet it normally takes companies at least 21 hours to formulate an official response.

And one year later, 53% of companies had not seen their share price regain pre-crisis levels.

So it’s truly amazing that companies like VW and Takata still think that procrastination can save them.

When it’s most likely to destroy them.

At Reputation, we help listed Corporations get prepared for potential Reputation Risks.

If you are a CEO of a listed Corporation, and you would like to discuss how to minimise the impact of a Reputation Crisis, please connect via our website or by email to Connect@TheReputationPartnership.com – and we will reply, in strictest confidence, by return.