What do investors want? Well, a lot of things, but when it comes to meetings, site visits are the most valuable according to a recent IR Magazine, (May 17, 2018, Roach), survey. Site visits rank ahead of informal calls, non-deal roadshows, investor days and conferences as a means of engagement.
I found plant visits were one of the most productive of the investor engagements efforts I conducted as an IRO. They tended to attract long-term oriented investors and provided them a deeper appreciation for the business – more than any spreadsheet or video could do. In addition, plant visits helped showcase operating management depth and provided same a glimpse into the investor perspective.
While the survey indicates a high percentage of companies already host site visits, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this grow given how often this topic has come up in informal conversations with other IROs. So, I thought I would share some tips from what I learned from hosting plant visits over the years:
- Location: Proximity to cities with good airports or the ability to utilize a company or leased plane, is ideal. I was fortunate to have plants within an hour drive of major cities such that with careful planning it was possible for east coast attendees to make it a day trip (albeit a long one). Another consideration is if there is a nearby customer or supplier with whom you can tag-team a visit with. This way investors can maximize the use of their time.
- Agenda: This could include a brief strategic business review; an orientation to plant operations within the larger business or industry context (such as customers served, production capacity, unique capabilities, etc.); an overview of site operations; safety briefing and facility tour. The first few topics could be covered by a CFO, COO or Operating VP (or even IR) with the site-specific topics handled by the plant’s General Manager.
- Group Size: I found 8 – 15 people a good size – large enough to make the visit worthwhile but small enough to enable attendees to get a first‑hand look but not disrupt operations. However, this will largely depend on the facility, whether it will be a walking tour or if vans/shuttles will be used. You should also consider how many operating staff will be needed to guide the tour.
- Safety: Will attendees be required to wear certain safety equipment, i.e., hard hats, goggles, steel-toe boots, safety vests, etc.? Be sure to coordinate with your plant, advise invited investors and request sizes as needed.
Now as for Reg FD – I know some get concerned when operating staff interact with investors for fear of inadvertent material disclosures. I found some simple guidelines such as: feel free to talk about operations, operating processes and strategies but don’t talk about current quarter performance and refer financial questions to the IRO or CFO – nicely balanced disclosure concerns but were easy for operating staff to follow. Of course, your guidelines will likely be driven by how much detail you provide in your disclosures and guidance (i.e., do you report or give guidance on any plant-level metrics) as well as to what extent your operations or technologies are proprietary or competitive.
Exposing investors to your operations gives them a different perspective on your business and help them understand your business better. In my view, a better understanding can lead to a better (more appropriate) valuation. Good luck with your site visits.
Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.
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