Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
It’s relatively easy to be good at your job. And you only have to be good at it to keep it. You show up on time, you perform your duties and you are competent in doing them. But progressing in an organization (providing it’s an organization that’s worth progressing in) usually entails more than just the basics.
For Investor Relations Officers (IRO), in order to earn the confidence of your boss [most likely the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)], demonstrate your value to management and the board of directors, and be considered for advancement to executive-level responsibility in the future, you need to know and execute the following five points according to executive search firm Berkhemer Clayton, Inc.
1) You should know your company better than inside out and backward and forward. You need to know your company’s strategy almost by memory and be even more know knowledgeable than your head of human resources about the company’s C-level and top executives. How knowledgeable? (That’s you, by the way.) How ‘bout being aware of not only their career histories and accomplishments, but also their failures. (And don’t let those carefully edited website bios and resumes fool you, they all have failures like everyone else.) And “histories” does not just mean at your company, it means at their prior companies, too. But wait, there’s more. You should also know certain key personal and family interests of those executives. (So, put on your stalker hat, basically.) Only by knowing this not-small-amount of information will you effectively be able to develop the strategies that will tell a compelling company story, defend the company’s reputation, if necessary, and forge those all-important personal connections with current and prospective employers.
2) Find out what the management team and board want to know about your competitors and the industry in which you work. Gather that information and periodically disseminate it. But don’t just play reporter. Make your own action-oriented recommendations that your management team and board of directors come to rely on for decision-making purposes. Just be sure that this is all done with the approval of your boss, obviously, and that it fits in with your company’s strategy (the one you know so well). Make your reports succinct, make them compelling to read and make sure you can confidently and articulately present them to the board of directors and answer their questions with engagement and enthusiasm.
3) Be your CFO’s top adviser on matters pertaining to current and prospective investors. That means knowing those investors almost as well as you know your own management team and proving that to your employers by telling them something, either professional or personal, about a potential investor they are going to meet with that will help make the best possible impression and pave the way for a real connection to build on.
4) Make sure you have an informed opinion about all matters of strategic importance to your organization. It’s not enough to say that you concur or disagree with something. You have to be able to articulate it and defend that opinion if you are called on to do so, but be prepared to voice those opinions even if you are not. This will require you to be courageous, obviously. The best way to be courageous is to be prepared.
5) Learn how and how frequently you need to communicate with each person you need to keep in contact with. And be clear in your communication with these people. Your credibility isn’t measured by how many big industry words you know, but by how clearly you can communicate with people. Also, remember that saying “I don’t have the answer to that but I can find that for you and get back to you” is a much better answer (as long as there is prompt follow-up) than trying to wing it just to make it look like you have an answer that you don’t.
Following these recommendations will make you a successful IRO, but if you perform them exceptionally well, you could very well set yourself up for future leadership-level responsibility in your organization.