In 2010, when Chefs’ Warehouse began preparing to go public, management realised that its personal strengths – delivering high-quality specialty food to restaurants – wouldn’t necessarily translate into telling a story that would wow institutional investors and Wall Street analysts.
‘We knew we would be communicating with a different constituency – the investor market – and we wanted to bring in somebody with expertise to do that,’ explains chief operating officer Jim Wagner.
The company soon began interviewing outside IR consultants to help hone the message for the S1 and later for roadshows, quarterly conference calls and investor luncheons.
Once Chefs’ Warehouse chose ICR, the financial communications firm helped the food-service company with everything from selecting investment banks to deciding to list on NASDAQ.
ICR helped management formulate an effective slide deck and hone its investor presentations. Before its first conference call, ‘we all prepared relentlessly,’ recalls Wagner. ‘The knowledge ICR had of the market we were presenting to helped us craft and tighten our message to get it across to investors.’
IPOs are on the upswing after the deep freeze of 2008 and 2009. In 2010, 154 US IPOs with a market cap above $50 mn were priced, and, at least until recently, activity in 2011 was keeping pace, with 96 US IPOs priced from January to August, according to IPO specialists Renaissance Capital.
Historically, many companies have scrambled to find IR help just prior to their IPOs, and some even went public with no IR plan in place. That’s now changing.
‘There are significant processes and procedures that need to be in place prior to the IPO to be successful as a public company over the long term,’ says Alex Wellins, co-founder and managing director of the Blueshirt Group, based in San Francisco. ‘An IPO is not the finish line. It’s the starting line for your life as a public company.’