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Most public company executives [insert stronger word than “hate”] quarterly earnings calls.

On the one hand, it’s understandable. On the other hand, that mindset and approach are a lot worse for business than most people think.

The disdain, lack of preparation, and lack of imagination come through loud and clear to… the people you’re trying to sell stuff to.

Before I provide three frank suggestions every company can deploy immediately to transform the efficacy – and, yes, enjoyment – of these calls, I have one overarching observation.


Despite what everyone tells you, there are no rules that govern these periodic shindigs. In fact, you’re not even required to have them.

But investors expect them (for good reason), and since they’re going to take place, why not embrace a methodology your team can actually own and look forward to?

Any time CEOs/CFOs speak to investors, there are three principal goals: (1) sell more stock to new/existing buyers; (2) encourage those who have stock not to sell it; and (3) do your best to coax would-be short sellers into finding greener pastures.

These calls are equal parts information reporting and sales jobs—mostly the latter for great public companies. So, if they are rote, lawyerly junk… you’re doing it wrong.


Without further ado:

What does the company do?! There should be lots of new people tuning into successive quarterly calls for the first time. Why on earth wouldn’t you want to succinctly reinforce for them (and new-ish existing holders) what your company does and how it makes money? Any small-cap that doesn’t do this either assumes no one new is joining their calls, or wildly overestimates how much investors, media, etc. know about their company. Both are bad.

Investors can read. The overwhelming majority of investors just read your quarterly results press release before joining your call. So why would the CEO repeat everything that’s in there, and then pass the call to the CFO for them to repeat the exact same stuff for… a third time? Because that’s how everyone else does it? Your quarterly calls only create value if they provide insights and information in addition to what investors just read.

Here’s why “We’re Winning.” I visit companies all the time – dozens a year. I always start my fact-finding the same way, whether I’m advising or investing; by asking “Why are you winning?” When CEOs answer this question, it’s often in plain English, and the answers typically incorporate helpful references to all different aspects of corporate performance: employees, new products/services, customer service, passion, compensation, attention to detail, etc. Great public companies know to reliably infuse those tidbits into their quarterly calls so investors get a much more holistic sense of a company. And here’s the best part – who isn’t enthused about sharing the reasons their company is winning?

I alluded to this earlier, but it bears repeating. If your company is performing well and your calls actually add value, then one thing is going to be true: the number of people tuning into the live/archived call is continuously going up.

If the number of people tuning into your quarterly calls isn’t inexorably climbing… there is a reason.

So change what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

P.S. If you’re a board member of a public company, make sure you receive that number every quarter. It’s a single number that tells a big story.

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A globally recognized small-cap expert, Mr. Epstein has advised, governed, and invested in hundreds of small-cap companies. His capital markets and corporate governance acumen are products of a singular perspective – a former corporate attorney, operating executive, institutional investor, and, now, board advisor. As Bloomberg Businessweek commented regarding Mr. Epstein’s category-defining corporate governance book, “attention, directors of small-cap companies. Help is on the way.” 

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