Mark Fasken: So Luke, this all started through a little exchange on the NIRI Forum. Somebody had asked a question about recommendations on how to be successful in your first 90 days as an IRO. And I was very impressed with the depth of your response. And so I reached out and asked whether you would do a podcast episode on it.
And so I really appreciate you taking the time. And I thought sort of the best way to start was, was with an overarching question, which was, which was what kicked us all off, which was, What are some of your suggestions for a new IRO in terms of what they should be doing in that first 90 days in the role to be successful in the future?
Luke Wyse: Sure. Well, thanks for having me. This is this is really a treat to be able to be here and speak to the people who follow you on the podcast. What I was trying to help that person with on their question was, when you think about this role, it's a very different role than you would typically have.
You're going to blend things from a legal perspective, from a communications perspective, from a PR perspective, finance perspective, sales perspective, there's a lot of different, disciplines that are brought into this role. And when I started, I had people in NIRI who took me under the wing and helped me out and gave me a lot of pointers.
There was no expectation of using their services or things like that, they were just super helpful. So I've tried to be helpful to other folks when they're coming into the industry as well. The real focus that I think I tried to impart was, don't change anything when you come in, unless the CEO, CFO, chairman, somebody has given you specific instructions to just rip the bandaid off and spend that first 90 days or so learning about the company that you joined. What are their values? What's the mission statement? What are the established processes that run around the IR role? What are the traditions? What's the reporting look like? Things like that. Familiarize yourself with everything that they do.
There's gonna be specific people that you should get to know. Chief accounting officer, controller, finance directors, things like that. Those folks are gonna be people you will be joined with at the hip throughout the reporting process. And there is a large component of this job related to financial reporting.
Familiarize yourself with the projections, as you talk to those finance guys and girls, the, those folks are going to have budgets. They're going to have reforecast. They're going to have scenarios that you need to be familiar with because you're going to need to understand how to message all of that to the street.
And, the street may also have had guidance communicated to it by management based on those projections. That projection may need to be adjusted in an upcoming call, or may need to be reinforced or something of that nature. There's just a lot to consider when you start talking about the numbers.
And this is a, at its heart, a role that is focused on the numbers. I would start another thing in the first 90 days is read every transcript you can going back at least the last three years, or whatever is relevant for your firm. What has the CEO and CFO and any other executive communicated to the street, that you need to be aware of, if you've ever done this job for any length of time, you know that you're going to sit down in a meeting with an investor and they're going to pull out a yellow pad and they're going to say, okay, on X, Y, Z date, you said, Y ,and you've got to be able to have a response to that and understand it because that will happen.
So familiarize yourself with what's been said. Know the wins, know the pain points. What have been the misses? What's been the missteps that management has had? What have they done really well? And the company can take the kudos for. And then the story. What is the overarching message that you're trying to communicate to the street?
And maybe the reason you're there is because there isn't one, and they're looking to you to build that message. And we can talk further later about what you're going to have to do to set that up. But you know getting that messaging in place, and understanding the message yourself is going to be a big piece of that first 90 days. The other two things that I talked about was people you should get to know in that first 90 days .The first was your investors, you're going to have some top group of investors that may be 10, that may be 20, it may be whatever that number is, who are your large shareholders who have a vested interest in the company. You need to be building relationships with them because at its core, that's what this job is. It is a relationship job. It's a sales job. You are trying to convince the street why your company is a better investment than some other company within the bounds of Reg fd and all the SEC requirements, of course, but get to know those investors, swap mobile numbers with them, send them texts, things like that if that's what they want. Figure out what attracted them to the company.
What do they understand about the company? What don't they understand, you know in this period, you're going to be learning as well. So as you learn, and talk to these investors, you're going to figure out what they don't understand, to allow you to better message what the company's trying to share. It's really important to, to build those relationships and they need to be able to pick up the phone and call you whenever. They're not going to be able to pick up the phone and call the CEO whenever they want.
They're not going to be able to pick up the phone and call the CFO whenever they want, but they should be able to reach you, whenever there's a question, and it should be accepted as that's expected, this is what we expect to have happen. We want to reach out The IRO is our relationship point at the company. And then you know, most of them will have suggestions about what you could do better. Don't be afraid to take those suggestions.
There's no shortage of that. Yeah Exactly. Yeah, but don't promise anything because obviously you've got to run all of that through your reporting structure and processes at your company, but you know, listen and take it away as a talking point for your next management committee meeting.
And then the last thing on that was the sell side analysts. You're going to have coverage analysts, or, if you don't, you'd be trying to get that coverage analyst pool put together, but you're going to have some coverage analysts who are going to have an understanding of the company. They're going to have trading desks they work with who need to understand your company, and you are learning as well, like we said right now, so sit down and talk with them, have them walk you through their models, have them discuss what they understand the company to be. Because again, just like with the investors, you're going to learn the things there that you don't know, or that they don't know that you can then help them within future quarters. As you talk about their models or talk about how they think about the company and what they're communicating to the investors when you're not around. You need to be there just like for the investors, you need to be their messenger.
And their advocate, that's a big piece of this job is being the liaison, between management and the street, to be able to make sure that the streets concerns are represented to management, and management is being responsive to that, to the extent that they can.
Mark Fasken: Yeah. What I love about this whole idea is this idea of just not rushing to change. I feel like that's a knee jerk reaction for a lot of people is change is a value add but, to your point it's certainly, you need you have a lot to learn before you can make change in an educated way. There's a panel at NIRI, where we talked about a little bit about sort of the 1st 90 days and a term that somebody used.
Mark Fasken: That sort of encapsulates all these things you're talking about is a listening tour, right? It's going on a listening tour and just asking a lot of questions. And as I'm sure you've found, there's a ton of value that can be derived from just asking all these questions and going back to management and saying, "Hey, I've spoken to our investors.
I've spoken to our analysts and there is a disconnect between what you think they are hearing and what they are actually hearing", right? And that alone is huge from a value creation perspective for the management team. Right?
Luke Wyse: Absolutely.
Mark Fasken: So. I think those are all, those are all great points in terms of that first 90 days.
Spending time with the investors, spending time with the analysts, understanding the story, the budget, the forecast, getting into the transcripts, maybe spending a little bit of time on peer transcripts as well as understanding that competitive landscape. And let's assume you've now gone through a bunch of that work.
Mark Fasken: And I have to assume is, takes weeks or, or months, and probably should also be just an ongoing thing that you're doing all the time, whenever you have time, let's talk about change then. So when should an IRO start to make change, whether those are even minor changes or major changes?
That could be anything, right? Like tech, vendors, earnings call process. There's a lot of things that you could look at from that perspective.
Luke Wyse: Yeah. And especially if you're stepping into an established role in the IR space, you're going to have processes and tools and things in place, that you need to inventory and understand before you can make changes.
What is the old saying? You know, if you, you got to prepare before you go to war instead of going to war and then prepare, you've got to figure out what needs to change before you change things. The first thing I would say is get to know the earnings process. This is the main way that you're going to be communicating with the street.
And you're going to do it every quarter religiously. Your company will have a cadence. Your company will have a process. They will have a pre record call. They will have a live call. They'll have a video call. They'll do something where the CEO and CFO and others will sit and talk to the street.
You'll have an earnings release, you'll have a processor on the creation of that release. What's the cadence that the company uses? Do you have an earnings preparatory series of meetings? You know, some companies have full blown processes that they sit down with each other and quiz each other and ask questions and try to play stump each other or something like that with questions and answers, to be able to prepare for the hard questions, particularly in bad quarters where there needs to be some sort of preparatory action ahead of time.
So figure out what the company's cadence is on that. And then what does the earnings prep process look like? The call prep process specifically, do they do a practice call? Do they not do a practice call? And then once you have all of that put together, do a gap analysis. Like, where do you see the shortfalls in process?
Where do you see the shortfalls in messaging or things that could be improved that you're going to go back to now and over the next series of quarters, start to make adjustments to was the call quality bad. Did you have poor sound? Do you need to get a new vendor? Who's going to be able to give you a different operator on your call?
Do you need better video equipment? Do you need professional studios? Do you need more rehearsal time because the CFO really missed that last question. Whatever that process is, you're going to start making changes from that gap analysis.
Mark Fasken: It's almost like, to your point, you don't necessarily need to make change unless somebody has specifically asked you to, like CEO our CFO have said, Hey, I need you to come in and change our story or whatever it is. It's almost like don't make any change until you've lived it, or receive some specific feedback from somebody that it needs to change, right?
To your point, like why change the earnings process unless you've actually gone through it once, at least, and understand it, or why change something about the company story, unless an investor and analyst has told you that there may be some misunderstanding or misalignment, right? It seems like a lot of people come in and make assumptions, try to change things, and then that's where it falls flat on its face.
Luke Wyse: Yeah, and you know in that first 90 days or so you're learning, and that learning is a mindset and there may be things the company's doing really well that you should learn and incorporate So don't just walk in thinking that everything needs to be changed walk in with an open mind learning about what takes place where you are, because there will be things that need to be changed.
Mark Fasken: Yeah, no, of course. And I think it's to your point, it's giving it a little bit of time before just jumping the gun. A lot of people seem to walk into these roles, and it's any different role, right? Where people come in and oh, well, I did it this way at my previous company, or I've seen it done this way a billion times.
And you're like, well, it's not your previous company, and things might be different here. So
Luke Wyse: Different personalities, different people, different everything. Yep. A hundred percent.
Mark Fasken: So, let's talk about the story, and, you gave some really good points on this in sort of the 1st question I'd asked you. And I've spoken to a few IROs. I remember an IRO had said to me at one point that one of their goals was really to be able to get into a meeting without the CEO or CFO, and be able to tell the company story and answer the questions and really manage that first meeting in an effective way, and obviously that really centers around a deep understanding of the story. So what are some of the steps that you recommend for an IRO to get that deep understanding of the story such that they could deliver it?
Luke Wyse: Absolutely. Great question. Yeah. The difference between a good IRO and a great IRO is the great IRO is somebody who can fill in in that first contact as a useful first step for an investor.
If you're just standing there, parroting back the financials or something like that, the investor is not going to get any value add from what you're bringing to the table. It really is, you need to understand the company, the strategy, the story, everything, get to know the executives to do that.
You're going to want to spend an awful lot of time understanding the people who run the business, the revenue generators, particularly, who are going to be the focus of a lot of investor questions. These people are going to have areas of control in the company that you need to know how revenue is generated, how pricing works, what the products are.
You don't need to be a product expert. You don't need to be able to be stepping in and running that business, but you need to have enough of an understanding of it that you can be intelligent in your conversations with investors, and make sure people are modeling things correctly and communicating that correctly.
Get time on their calendars. I think you said, you know, sit down and get focused time so that you can be and look at the managerial reporting ahead of time. So when you sit with them, you have intelligent questions, you understand the profitability, you understand the drivers of their business. I mean, you probably have a finance background or some sort of background in finance or communications if you're in this role. Understand the financial statements that you're talking to these guys, because that's what's going to be driving the results. You talk to the street about, get to know their backgrounds. Everybody comes from someplace else. What are their duties? What are their objectives?
The street is going to look at that executive and want to understand what they bring to the table. How experienced are they? You may have somebody who's a rising star and the streets very interested in that person running that business. You may have somebody who is at the end of their career, and wants to come back and do something where they're just building instead of really, running a large operation or something.
You're at a smaller company and they're contributing a lot because of the depth of what they bring to the organization. Those are great tidbits to have as you're communicating with the street. And then ask how you can be a resource for them. Remember that this isn't just a one way street with these executives, as you're learning the story and learning the processes.
What can you do to help them? For example, sales meetings, BDO meetings, things like that. They may want you to come in and give a market update. You're imminently equipped to do that in your role. What's happening with, with the market in general, the macro environment, what's happening with how you're being perceived in the industry.
How is your company perceived in the space, what's the market attitude to the messaging that you're putting out, things like that. How do those salespeople drive the results, connect it for them so that they can see the value that they're adding to what the CEO and CFO are telling everyone on the calls.
Those connections are important. And you're going to need more time with some of them. Some of these stories are going to be complex. Some of those areas of control are going to be significant. And don't be afraid to ask more time. Recognize people like to talk about themselves, and if you get push back, remind them that you're going to have a lot of conversations with investors about them.
You need to be informed and educated about who they are, where they're from ,and what they do to be able to put the best light on them as you're speaking about them publicly.
Mark Fasken: This is it's a great point. There's a couple other episodes we've done. And people have mentioned this of just, you know, you don't want to be that person who's just always asking for something, but not really giving anything back.
Right? And comes earnings time. And suddenly you're like, I have all these questions or these things deliverables that I need. And you're reaching out to different department heads and you've never really even maybe even sat down for a coffee with them. So I agree. I think those relationships are super helpful, not only for your own learning, there's going to be a lot of times you're going to need help from these folks.
Mark Fasken: How much of your time, out of curiosity, would you say you're spending interacting with those different department heads and just understanding the business, like, you know, walking over and spending time, whether it's having a coffee or whatever, just understanding what's happening in the departments or some of the challenges or opportunities that they're seeing.
Luke Wyse: Sure. I would say at the executive level, probably daily, I'm in communication with them, whether it's through walking by their office or slack messages or things like that, below that, not quite as often, but in an organization where I try to keep it more at the strategic level and the business unit level.
One of the things I've found is, the things I don't know, I can't accidentally say, so as we, as we're looking at too much, exactly. It's like, I want to, I want to know the soup, but I don't necessarily need to know how the soup got made. That's, it's one of those things that you just got to kind of figure out what the right level of your organization is.
But yeah, you definitely have to spend time with those executives, build those relationships because they're going to need you. You're going to need them. It's a symbiotic relationship without question.
Mark Fasken: You used a term earlier. It was like this stump you or got you game, that some, some investors play or, or IRO team play.
And that sort of leads to our next question, which is, actually validating that you understand the story. Cause I think the last thing you obviously want to do is do all this work, think that you understand it, get a little bit confident in yourself, go to an investor meeting and get absolutely smoked.
Mark Fasken: And so how can an IRO go about the process of ensuring that they do have that deep understanding of the story, and that they are prepared to take some of these meetings, maybe on their own, or at least start leading them with the support of another team member.
Luke Wyse: Sure. I think it's really important.
Like we said, to spend time with those executives building those relationships. What I like to do is, as you're getting up to speed on the business, create a write up. You're going to sit down after your meeting with these executives, you're gonna have a pile of notes and they're going to be disjointed.
If you're like me, with ideas scribbled here and there, as things occur to you, organize those thoughts into talking points, organize those thoughts into a story, into an essay. If you were to just hand somebody this document, does it accurately communicate what's occurring in that business, and then give it back to those executives and just say, Hey, would you please take a look at this and make sure that I've understood what you're presenting or what you've presented to me as the correct way to understand your business.
A good IRO is a resource for investors on those businesses on those when those questions come up that they need answers to quickly, they need to be able to hit you and get those answers without you having to go talk to somebody, without you having to pick up the phone and call somebody. Now that's, if that happens, it's not terrible, but that can't happen all the time.
You need to be that expert on your industry, on your company. I would encourage people to create stories for each businesses as the way I would answer that.
Mark Fasken: Yeah. And do you find that a lot of the time, you know, your goal is, I would assume, but correct me if I'm wrong, to really turn the story into something that is your own, right?
It seems like I would assume, you know, it should be the same talking points, fundamentally the same story, but I imagine the CEO tells it differently from the CFO essentially from how the CRR, like, it's not like we're all following the exact same script word for word, right? It's the talking points. The overarching pieces are the same, but you're going to make it your own a little bit, correct?
Luke Wyse: Yeah, absolutely. And as you make the story your own, you're going to find your style of communication. You're going to find the way you talk about things. You're going to, if you're paying attention, as you talk to these investors, you're going to find out what resonates with them. If you're talking to a value investor versus a growth investor, you need to be able to tailor what you're saying to those interests.
That doesn't mean you're telling somebody one thing and telling somebody else, another thing, but the way you're communicating to those different interests is material, that you're not going to attract a growth investor with a value store. You're not going to attract a value investor with a growth story.
You need to be cognizant of who you're speaking with for sure.
Mark Fasken: Right. Okay. And we sort of have talked at a at a high level about the different business units and the different stakeholders and things, maybe we can just get a little bit more specific on that as you think about, you know, who are the primary people?
Mark Fasken: Like I'm looking at some of the notes that we had when we talk about CEO, CFO, but who are the maybe top five or six folks that you would really prioritize spending your time with and what are you trying to learn from each of those people?
Luke Wyse: Great question. CEO for sure. The CEO is going to have the strategy for you.
They're going to have the story, even if it's not well defined, they're going to have the idea of what the story is, what the message is that they want to communicate to the street. You need to have a really solid understanding of that. CFO, you're going to need to speak to the financials. Our position is a lot about numbers and you need to understand the numbers.
You need to be able to handle the initial questions that come in on the numbers. People are still gonna want to visit with the CFO. You are not the replacement for the CFO, but you need to be able to handle those initial questions that come in about what the numbers are telling the street, on and what are the important numbers and the important metrics to be able to follow. Communications and marketing.
There's going to be internal messaging that takes place. And sometimes they may want you to participate in that and tell the folks internally what's going on externally. There's going to be a public face of the company that you need to make sure you're in alignment with, and that what you're doing from an IR perspective is consistent with the communications agenda. Your PR firm, your communications firm, things like that, you need to get to know those people because they're going to be able to get you access for things like interviews for your CEO, and opportunities to be on CNBC or whatever it happens to be.
They're also going to be people you're going to work with on your disaster plans, so to speak. What happens if some executive makes a comment on Twitter and you need to do damage control, what's the process, what's your battle plan, so to speak. Familiarize yourself.
Mark Fasken: Hopefully that doesn't happen in the first 90 days, I guess, right?
Luke Wyse: Right. And then your general counsel, your general counsel, somebody you should be joined at the hip with, whether you're talking about the proxy process or you're talking about the operating rules within your firm, something as simple as do you have a quiet period?
And when does it begin? Stuff like that? There's some folks like that you should just be having lunch with periodically, or have an open dialogue with on a daily to weekly basis, just to make sure you're in front of them, and y'all are all singing from the same song sheet.
Mark Fasken: Okay, so we're we've got a couple of questions left here. And the 1 that I think is, is, is really important because I think we've done a really great job of encapsulating, learning the story, understanding the story, who do you interact with? But I think the, the other question though is how do you ensure that you're adding value, right?
Mark Fasken: I mean, you're, you're still at this point, relatively new to the role. I mean, you're sort of, let's say you're getting the six to 12 months in mm-hmm. . How can IROs ensure that they're adding value, that they're aligned with management? What is the process that you would recommend or that you go through to ensure that there is that alignment? On an ongoing basis.
Luke Wyse: That's a great question. I would summarize it in the word: education. You need to be educated on your firm and you need to be educated on your industry. A great IRO is a resource to investors on both our arc and, by no means are you the expert. but you know enough to be valuable.
For example, our industry, we sit pretty well firmly in three camps. We are in, in my company, we're in banking, FinTech and transportation. I spend a lot of time reading about the transportation markets. I spent a lot of time reading about what's happening in the payments world and what's happening in the finance world.
The reason for that is we will get investors who will call us up because they recognize that because of how much data we see in trucking, we have a very good window into what's generally happening in the market. And we have leading indicators and things like that. And so oftentimes, we'll get inbound inquiries where they don't even want to talk about our company.
They want to talk about, "Hey, what are you guys seeing in this space? Because I have interest in that. Are we seeing, whatever it happens to be, there's some trend, what are you seeing?" So, you know, to do that, you need to have information about where the best sources of data are in your industry.
For example, in banking, everybody uses S& P's intelligence platform. In freight, sonars, FreightWave sonar product is incredible. What are the tools in your space, in your industry that are going to give you up to date Information that are going to be the talking points of the day when the investor picks up the phone and calls you and says, Hey, I just saw an article on freight waves.
What do you guys think about that? You have to be educated enough on not only the article, but the topic to be able to respond to that in a manner. That's valuable for the investor. So it's just I had a professor in college who called it environmental scanning. It's that process where. You can't read everything, but you need to be able to figure out what you distill how to distill all that information into the sources that are valuable for you.
And, you know, find those, especially if you're new to the industry, visit with your investors. What do they read? Visit with your analysts. What do they read? Visit with your business leaders, what do they read? Figure out what that source is in your space and and then continue to build on it as you find your own sources.
Mark Fasken: Almost like becoming that strategic advisor, that trusted advisor to the investors rather than always just hey, I want to ask you a million questions about your earnings call that just happened. Getting that conversation and going on a, on a regular basis. And I think, you know, probably an indication of, of value creation from an IRO perspective is have you become that point of contact, right?
Right. Like if all the investors are still just emailing your CEO and CFO and sort of going around you, that's probably not a good, a good sign. Right. But if they're calling you up and they have questions, whether it's about the business or the industry, that's probably a good indication that that they trust you and they value their relationship.
But how do you look at that from an internal perspective as well? Right. How do you ensure that, you know, the CEO and CFO and the board are feeling that same value, and how do you validate that with them?
Luke Wyse: That's a really good question. I think. I think you've got to integrate yourself into the strategic discussions of the firm.
If you're, if there are strategic discussions taking place and at the end of that process, they come to you and say, Hey, we need help messaging this. What's what we're going to do to the investors. You're already in a bad spot. You need to be on the front end of those, which means, you need to have demonstrated to the executive team that you contribute and add value to what they're doing ,so that they include you in those processes and don't just add you at the end.
If you want to be sure you're adding value, what are the yardsticks by which they're measuring you? Talk to your chairman. What does your chairman, your board of directors, what do they like about what they're getting from IR? What aren't they getting from IR they would like to see?
What do they see at other companies that they're on boards of, that they would like you to start doing? Figure out their communication preferences. I have board members who love emails from me periodically about what's happening in the industry, and you'll have Board members who want to get the monthly or quarterly update from you, and that's all they want, figure out what those communication preferences are.
But to add value, you need to understand what those people look for from you, which takes communication, which takes relationships, which takes time.
Mark Fasken: I think that the couple comments you had also made when we were prepping for this call was, and you've actually mentioned a few times throughout this, which is just like that open, transparent line of communication.
Right? And also you had mentioned, you want to have some of these conversations like what you just mentioned early on, right? What are the milestones? How are we measuring this? Where am I going to add value? Like at the beginning and then checking in on that regularly. Not okay we're 6 to 12 months in.
How do you think things are going? And then it's like, oh, well, I had expected you were going to do this. But I'm doing something totally different. And you're, you're just, you're not aligned. Right? So it seems like that aligned to those discussions. Early on is, is a cornerstone of, of ensuring that you maintain that alignment.
Luke Wyse: Agreed. Yeah, I mean, you have to have that ability to know on the front end what it is that you're going to be measured on from a success basis. Is there a stated goal that we want to expand the shareholder base? Do they want me to add four new coverage analysts this next six months? Well, obviously, unless you've got a deal coming up with some serious economics, that's not going to happen.
What is the reasonable goals, and what are their expectations of you such that, you know, the guidelines by which you'll be measured and successful? What's the, what, by when my, my first boss used to say, if you want to make an effective request, what do you want done by when and what's our process?
I would definitely visit with the three leaders, the chairman, the CEO, and the CFO and, and ask them each what they measure success by. They may have different ideas about the most basic pain points for them. The chairman may want to see shareholders shift. The CEO may want to see some coverage analyst changes.
The CFO may have some message that he's trying to get about how revenue looks, or the sales process or something good that's happening that the street just isn't picking up on. What are their goals and how can you be most successful to them? What are you solving for? And then you know, you mentioned the first things to talk about one of the things that we haven't talked about but that is important is your budget. It's really funny to me, IR teams are usually fairly small but my goodness, do we have big budgets.
And it's all expense. You know, if you think about what you're doing, you have travel, you have perception studies, you have investor days, you have systems, you have I just, you know, consultants, you have all kinds of things that you're touching, and it adds up quick. So, learning about what the budget is you have to work with and then whether or not you feel that tool set is correct for what you need to do and what you need to accomplish, is going to be a really important process of that first 90 days, that first year, as you move into that role.
Mark Fasken: Yeah, well, it seems to be a constant question that comes up is what should my IR budget be? And it doesn't seem like there is always a super clear answer. It has obviously come with independent, but this has been super, super helpful, Luke. I think there's, there's a lot of good stuff in here.
I really appreciate the time. I'm sure that this will probably, be an ongoing discussion that we'll have and there's some great content that will come out. So really appreciate your time.
Luke Wyse: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Pleasure. Pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Winning IR is a podcast exploring the diverse insights within the investor relations community. Join host Mark Fasken as he discusses the winning strategies, tactics, and shifts in thinking with innovative investor relations professionals who are redefining the profession.
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