I remember meeting a friend for coffee around this time last year – we exchanged updates on, amongst other things, how our lives at work were going. When I explained that it felt like year-end reporting came out of nowhere, she replied “Oh… really? You weren’t expecting it this year?”
So, aside from the obvious advice of “start early!”, here are my suggestions for making your quarterly and year-end reporting seasons a little less overwhelming.
Have a kick-off meeting and develop key messages
The first thing you’ll want to do is have a kickoff meeting to discuss the company’s performance in the most recent quarter, as well as trends and any unusual or unexpected results that will need to be addressed in your disclosure. Don’t forget to discuss macroeconomic and industry specific factors that impacted your business. Use your insights to draft key messages that will guide all related communications: what’s the one message you want investors to get when they are reading your disclosure documents, or when they’re listening to your conference call?
Make a to-do list
List everything that needs to get done prior to your earnings reporting date. Items on your to-do list should include: drafting the press release (including quote from the CEO/CFO/COO), a Q&A document, a letter to shareholders and a conference call script. Also list the small logistical tasks such as booking your conference call, issuing a press release announcing the call, and issuing the earnings press release and filing your documents on SEDAR.
Create a flow chart with roles and responsibilities
Put your tasks in chronological order and assign individuals to each task. Who’s writing the press release and the quote? Who’s responsible for the first draft of the press release? Who’s involved in the first, second, third… set of revisions? When do the lawyers need to sign off? Which board committees need to review it and when? Will everything be done in time for the board meeting?
Start with the order of events, keeping in mind that some will occur in tandem. Odds are, you’ll already have an existing process in place, but mapping it out will establish a standard procedure and assign responsibilities.
Create a work-back schedule
You know the deadline for reporting your results, so create a conservative work back schedule with that date in mind. Give individuals ample time to complete their roles. Include a margin of error as delays – for whatever reason – are inevitable. Revisit this schedule each quarter, taking unique circumstances, like employee absences, into account.
Bring it all together
Merge your to-do list, flow chart and work-back schedule into a master plan. Circulate this plan internally to use for future reporting periods and adjust as necessary. Don’t forget to post your updated investor materials, including the presentation, on your website.
Now, with your new master plan in hand, you’re more likely to have an efficient earnings reporting process, and less likely to be caught-off-guard next quarter.