Welcome to our in-depth interview with Q4’s Head of Investor Relations, Edward Miller. As a veteran of the investor relations field who has seen the industry evolve and adapt to new challenges and opportunities over the years, Ed has invaluable investor relations insights to share. His experience working with small and micro-cap companies has given him unique insights into earnings presentation dos and don’ts, the nuances of market cap strategy, the importance of team collaboration, and how technology is reshaping the IR space.
In this interview, Hayley Binks, Q4’s Product Marketing Manager for Events, asked Ed to share his experience and knowledge, offering invaluable advice for new and seasoned Investor Relations Officers (IROs). We delved into how to deliver clear, concise messages, create strong relationships with analysts, and use new technological tools to refine your investor relations program.
Hayley: To start, what are some common mistakes in your experience that young IROs can make in the earnings process?
Edward: The key thing with earnings is to keep it simple. Keep an unambiguous, succinct message. Get to the point. Try not to overcomplicate. Each bullet is meant to be clear, precise, and tied to the key message of what you’re trying to deliver.
As an example, at the beginning of the year, Q4 Inc. worked on developing a clear strategy for the message we wanted to deliver. This year it was the path to profitability, and for Q1 results, it was how we plan to reach that path of profitability by the end of the fourth quarter. So the whole messaging was concise, directing to the headline that we’re on the path to profitability.
Hayley: In terms of how you go about executing your strategy, you’ve worked with many different companies while being in this field. So what are some of the project management tools or critical aspects of your process of preparing for earnings, then evaluating and iterating afterward that help you feel your best going into the call?
Edward: The first fundamental thing is to start with the finance group and digest the numbers so you understand them. Finding possibilities in the messaging you’re looking for and how those financials relate is crucial. By talking with the team, you can identify the specific positive metrics that you could tie back to your key messaging and theme for the year.
I take that initial step with the finance team, having a kickoff call to look at the high-level financials and look at some of the critical points. And from that, team members will come back and identify which metrics to accentuate when you’re communicating the story to shareholders. Then we would further elaborate on that from the kickoff call.
Hayley: You’ve worked a lot in small and micro-cap companies. How does your market cap impact reporting financial results? How does an IRO’s job differ internally and externally based on cap size? And in smaller teams, how did you ensure reduced resources didn’t negatively impact your IR program?
Edward: In a smaller company, we typically keep the actual call very simple, with a simple script and conference call. For that reason, the bulk of the work typically comes on afterward. It also depends on the amount of analysts that you have. So if you only have a few analysts, it’s a big difference from Q4, where we have six. Some have twelve. If you have Shopify, they have forty analysts. So your process depends on the level of analysts that are involved.
The bigger the company, the more resources the team has. It’s tying all those numbers together because they change throughout the process. And you’ve got to always make sure to go back and make sure that they’re updated. So we have to do what we call tie-in and have team members just come on, and we go through every single document to make sure that they all tie together, but the smaller the company the fewer resources. You must narrow the process and use additional marketing tools that give real-time information and feedback.
Hayley: That’s a good point. In my experiences working in smaller companies, the lines of where you would help and where you wouldn’t be more blurred, and it’s more of an all-hands-on-deck culture. Everybody wants to help each other, so you can work with who you have in terms of people in marketing or communications, as you mentioned. And I suppose having fewer analysts following your company allows you more time to dedicate to understanding what they will want to get out of each earnings call.
Edward: Yes, indeed. The best advice for any new IRO is to develop a relationship with your analysts. Stay in touch with the street, understand their needs before the call, and even meet them beforehand. Staying familiar with the pulse of the street and what the key issues are in real-time will allow you the time with management to prepare answers to those hard-hitting questions.
Hayley: Are there any particular tools or resources you have used to help yourself understand the Street other than networking and talking to people or any you know of? There are a lot of new tools out there these days. Are there any particular tools that are helpful to you?
Edward: So historically, it’s just your gut feeling based on the reports and the relationship, right? Because this is called investor relations. And what does relationship mean? It means having a close connection with the street and understanding the pulse. What are the issues? So it’d be no different than your close friend, understanding their key issues in life. And so it’s the same as having a relationship with the street, knowing the key things they want to see ahead of time, and knowing that this is how they behave.
But new tools are coming out, certainly. One notable recent trend in AI is tools that take the tone of the CEO when they’re speaking and relate that back to a correlation of how the stock may perform. So there are a whole bunch of varying tools now in AI that are developing.
Hayley: It’s unbelievable that they can do that, right? As those tools get more built out, will you be somebody at the beginning of the adoption curve, or are you a little bit more hesitant and like to go with more tried and true processes?
Edward: We have a great team here, so I am confident in adopting more technologies because I have excellent support. Many team members are really there, and they want the company to succeed, and they want me to succeed in my role so they’re always trying to help me do the best job possible in moving forward. I might be hesitant if I was in a smaller company and didn’t have the resources and didn’t have Q4, then I would be less willing. So that’s important. The support level that Q4 can provide the IRO within taking those steps forward is crucial. IROs rely on us as their partner to move forward and develop new possibilities to make their lives easier.
Hayley: In Q4, we want to help companies succeed and show their value. But a significant need for our clients is also to succeed in their careers as individuals. What would you say to any IROs feeling pressure to show their team that they’re doing their due diligence and doing everything they can to ensure the success of their IR program?
Edward: Hire Q4. That’s what they need. They need the support and the people behind them who care and are committed to making them shine. And that’s what we do, right? We help over 2,600 companies shine and succeed and make them look good, and if they look good and grow, they do great. Right now, everyone at Q4 does a great job, and everyone on the team helps in that, whether it be accounting or billing, reputation or the front line of a conference call. It all ties together, and every person really can make an impact to make the IRO successful.
Our thanks go out to Ed Miller for generously sharing his investor relations insights. His blend of wisdom and passion for clear communication and embracing technology offers excellent insights for those new to the investor relations career.
For more advice on having a career in investor relations, read our posts “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Investor Relations Career (Part I)” and “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Investor Relations Job (Part II).”
*Note: Content has been edited for clarity