Mar 16 2015

Straight talk for the long term

How to improve the investor-corporate dialogue to make strategic and operating decisions that build value for the long term.

Short-term behavior is becoming the norm in modern capital markets. Rather than pursuing and communicating long-term strategies, many public companies dedicate significant resources to meeting quarterly earnings guidance and communicating their performance relative to this guidance. This focus on short-term actions and communications seems counterproductive, considering that more than 50% of a typical company’s value is created by activities that will take place three or more years in the future.

Research shows that the current emphasis on achieving short-term earnings targets leads to value destroying behaviours:

  • One survey found that 55% of CFOs would avoid undertaking an investment that en­hanced net present value if it meant falling short of the quarter’s consensus earnings per share (EPS).
  • 78% of executives said they would take actions to improve quarterly earnings at the expense of long-term value creation.
  • Companies that expressly seek to manage short-term earnings in order to narrowly beat consen­sus also underperform peers after two years.

The investor-corporate dialogue can help counteract this short-term bias. We define “investor-corporate dialogue” as the flow of information and ideas between corporations and their current and future investors and have three primary recommendations for compa­nies that seek to strike a better balance between short-term performance and long-term value creation:

  • Build and communicate a compelling long-term strategy.
  • Measure value-creation initiatives and performance relative to metrics that are specific to your company and long-term strategy.
  • Report to and engage with long-term investors.

Read the paper “Straight talk for the long term for a brief look at these ideas, and for an extended discussion read Straight talk for the long term: an in-depth look at improving the investor-corporate dialogue

Keyword: Measuring Impact