CIRI's lessons in lasting success

Jun 08, 2011
<p>The final day of CIRI 2011 saw discussions about the fragile state of the economy, personal brand management and fighting off hostile takeovers</p>

Rocky Mountain weather can be unpredictable and attendees woke up to a very different climate on the final day of CIRI’s annual conference in Lake Louise.

A cold front brought rain and thunderclaps to the cloud-shrouded mountain resort, and it was perhaps fitting that the first session featured an economist prognosticating on the country’s economic outlook.

Is the recession over? Yes. Probably. ‘The recovery will continue to be gradual, which leaves North American economies vulnerable to negative shocks,’ said RBC assistant chief economist Paul Ferley, who is particularly worried about a spike in oil prices. ‘In an environment where confidence is not at its strongest, that could potentially turn this recovery back into recession.’

Breakout sessions followed Ferley’s talk, and included a discussion on how to ‘develop your career and be perceived as an ‘A’ player by senior management’. The consensus of the panel, composed of a recruiter and three experienced IR professionals, was that the acknowledgement and trust of the Street is critical to success.

Getting recognition

‘The thing that helped me most getting traction in my career is the fact I have been recognized by IR magazine and the Street for good, credible IR,’ said Janet Craig, a five-times award winner for best IRO, who is vice president of corporate communications at ViXS.

‘CEOs and other internal people are important from a networking perspective but the Street is a constant. An honest, consistent message not only rewards your company but also your career prospects should you ever move on. You must always manage your brand.’

‘Don’t submit a generic résumé,’ counseled John McKay, a partner at executive search firm Caldwell Partners. ‘Always rewrite it to suit the opportunity and reflect how you can solve the specific problem. That way, the spotlight falls on you. You always want to be in a candidate pool of one.’

Meanwhile that morning, conference goers learned about evolving financing tools, were reminded that investors are not rational and given tips on successfully interacting with their boards.

Building up trust

Denita Stann, vice president of IR and public relations at PotashCorp, held a well-attended session where she shared her experience fighting an unsolicited takeover bid by BHP Billiton. She advised that preparation was key to success.

‘Being prepared is the name of the game,’ said Stann, who was awarded this year’s Belle Mulligan award for leadership in IR. ‘This was not a surprise transaction for us by any means. We have regular sessions with board and management where we discuss the M&A landscape.

‘We have a ‘takeover binder’ detailing timelines, processes and responsibilities. We maintain an up-to-date shareholder list and ensure our website can handle extra activity. If you are not ready when it happens, it’s too late to fix it.’

Stann also emphasized the importance of ongoing shareholder relationships when facing a crisis. ‘A well-articulated strategy and record of performance are what investors remember when they [are deciding on a takeover offer],’ she said.

‘It's called shareholder relations for a reason: you need to have a relationship with your shareholders. If they don’t have a relationship with you or senior management, you have built no foundation of trust from which to work. If you are not doing so already, make face-to-face meetings with shareholders and senior management a priority.’  

Lunch featured CIRI’s award ceremony, where Jon Bey, president and CEO at Steel Rose Communications, won the Belle Mulligan scholarship for the new CIRI/Ivey IR certification program and Elaine Wyatt, president at Craib Strategic Directions, took home the award for excellence in IR.

Higher level of leadership

In an inspiring finale, Mac Van Wielingen, founder and co-chairman of ARC Financial, and chairman and founder of ARC Resources, called on IROs and corporate leaders to show a higher level of leadership.

Pointing to high-profile corporate failures, Van Wielingen said, ‘We’ve had to endure colossal negligence, incompetence and a clear corruption of values in managements. The economy is in better shape but has the root of the problem been resolved? Are we even clear what the root of the problem is?’

For Van Wielingen, enduring success depends on a higher level of leadership that engenders a corporate culture based on trust, respect – and even love.

Click here to read our review of the first two days of CIRI 2011.

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