2019 volume 29 issue 4

Reflecting on 2019 and Launching Your Plan for 2020


Karen Keyes

Some roadshows are more memorable than others. One of my most memorable was a few years ago when we decided to do a non-deal roadshow in Calgary and Edmonton in the third week of December, on the back of a year-end Board strategy session out West. Delays and cancelled flights left my then-CFO and me competing for flights with Alberta oil sands workers travelling east for the Christmas period, while he tried to explain to his family that he was doing his best to get back to catch a flight for their family holiday the next day.

I learned my lesson. I now respect Mother Nature’s December unpredictability and management’s need to get some downtime around the holidays. I shy away from booking roadshows after early December. Doing meetings in December is often challenging. Given that the decisions taken at the mid-December board meeting can often have implications for where guidance or longer term strategy will land, not putting yourself and the team in situations where these topics are likely to be discussed can be an upside. Equally important, though, it frees up part of December for some reflection and planning time. 

As we begin December, here are a few tips and reminders on allocating time to best position IR for 2020. 

Get a debrief on year-end strategy and planning decisions: If you work in a business with a December year-end, management often spends a good part of the month locking down strategy and budgets with the Board. It is also a critical time for most businesses to confirm whether year-end targets can be met. If you don’t attend the year-end Board strategy session, get a debrief to understand major decisions that have been taken and spend some time thinking about whether and how your messaging and core documents need to change.

Build your internal network and credibility by volunteering IR to speak or contribute to January kick-off sessions: Senior management conferences in early January (or other internal events to communicate the company’s strategic direction) have been a feature of all the businesses I have worked in, with planning for these happening in Q4. Securing a spot on the platform for the IR view or contributing to presentations given by others can help firm up your messaging and build internal buy-in and your personal credibility.

Get your year-end IR summary for the Board ready to go: If you haven’t prepared one for a December strategy session, get a summary together that can be circulated in early January once you have the closing share price and other stats for the year. My experience is that this kind of summary can be a useful tool in setting objectives in the new year and agreeing where the company’s IR focus needs to be – and the information will feel pretty stale by the time you get to the Q4 Board meeting.

Lock in your 2020 (and maybe even 2021) roadshows: If you haven’t already, get your travel/roadshow schedule for the next 12-18 months in place. Ensure executive time is locked in and that there are no conflicts with other events. Approach corporate access teams and analysts to assist. Everyone will be grateful to get some forward visibility – and knowing what you have planned will also make you more popular at home when the inevitable post-turkey discussions around 2020/21 holidays start to happen!

Touch base with your analysts: Getting in touch with analysts late in the year also allows you to see where their priorities are, what they are hearing concerning expectations in the new year and how you can help them. It’s also a great opportunity to thank them for their support over the past year.

Book to attend an economists’ economic outlook event in January: This is an excellent way to begin the year. While there are unlikely to be huge surprises, it is a useful recap, providing insights into what is expected to happen in the world that might create headwinds for the business, and helping you move off thoughts of skiing and holiday meals. Some of the CIRI Chapters usually run a session of this type, as does the Economic Club of Canada.

Read all those white papers you have been meaning to read: If you are part of a small team and/or you didn’t manage to make it to as many CIRI events as you would have liked in 2019, benefit from the white papers produced by suppliers on best practice and trends and directions. Despite the greatest intentions, I know I will never get to these white papers if I bring them home for holiday reading. Get some thinking time and catch up on this reading before you leave for the holidays and consider how to include what you’ve learned in your plan for 2020. 

Thank your team and suppliers: It’s easy to get caught up in all the gift giving and holiday parties within the company, as well as with peers and suppliers. But a heartfelt note or personally delivered thank you delivered at year end from the CEO, CFO or head of IR goes a long way toward ensuring that team members and suppliers feel appreciated and come back prepared to deliver on the next year’s plans.

Think about your personal goals for 2020: Finally, it goes without saying that year-end is a great time for some personal reflection around achievements and objectives. Personally, I prefer to defer this one until the quiet time over the holidays but if you like to get started earlier, your talent team likely has a formal process to help steer your reflection and there are helpful lists published in places like The Globe and Mail’s Leadership Lab columns.

Wherever the end of year takes you, happy holidays and best wishes for 2020!

Karen Keyes was, until recently, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations at Aimia Inc.

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