We all know that stock markets respond in an irrational way dependent on the availability of information, and several key criteria related to the company. Innovation, consumer appetite for new products or new uses of products, and leadership changes are the typical price influences that the market experiences, outside of global economic and political stability. It is the information that is readily available. Private companies on the other hand have a different perspective. Ask a private capital company what they look for in an investment and the best ones will tell you it’s about passion and a sustainable management process.
These two items together create the magic that produces innovation, consumer attraction and strong leadership in a sustainable way. Lose either and you fall victim to individual heroics that may or may not produce that for which the public markets deem worthy of paying a premium. What are management practices exactly? They are the behaviours that company managers exhibit when executing the company’s management processes. More specifically, they are behaviours that:
- Illicit creativity
- Align and motivate teams and individuals
- Provide candid and productive feedback in all directions
- Create vision and excitement, and
- Produce a steady flow of change that results in consistent and dramatic performance improvement over long time horizons
Management processes include strategic planning processes, annual objectives-setting processes, performance management processes, process improvement processes, and employee and customer feedback and communication processes. A company that can consistently find innovative ideas, create an appetite in the market, and execute on the market demand on a repetitive basis shows signs of having a strong set of management processes that are practiced very effectively. Think Apple in recent years, who made a killing on iPads and iPhones in the wake of a terrible recession. A company that produces one great innovation and then struggles to find more is likely suffering from poor management practices. All new ideas or projects are relying on individual heroics, and any weakness in its execution should be a sign that there are weaknesses among the management.
Think Blackberry in recent years, and their poorly received Playbook and Blackberry Torch. Which one would you rather invest in? When the market values innovation, consumer appetite and company leadership, what they are really valuing are the signs and symptoms of effective management practices. Why not go straight to the source and make sure the fundamentals are in tact before you invest in the symptoms? Over the last 6 years I have assessed the management practices of various companies in multiple different fields, from consumer goods to financial services and beyond. By addressing and improving a few key management practices, my clients have earned significant premiums on their valuations. It is possible to measure the effectiveness of a company’s management practices, and that research should weigh heavily on an analysts estimates of a company’s value.
The best way to learn about a company’s management practices is to find out from their customers and employees. A fractured company, with poor feedback from customers and employees is a sign of a company with fractured management practices. Perhaps there is lack of clarity in the organization’s strategy. Maybe the employees don’t know how they fit into the big picture. Maybe there are pervasively inefficient business processes. Or perhaps there is a severe fear of giving performance feedback that is based objectively on tangible results. All of these root causes lead to limited innovation and poor understanding of customer appetite.
Your Best Stock Bet– The best bet from my perspective is to put your money in on the companies that meet any of the following characteristics:
- A low stock price, and new leadership that has a track record of great management practice
- An IPO in which the prospectus or your own knowledge of the company shows clear indication that there are robust management processes in place, and skilled practitioners of those processes within the management ranks
- An undervalued company that has strong management processes, and is investing in upgrading its management’s execution of those processes
Companies that you might want to divest of or avoid are ones that:
- Have stale management processes that are not being practiced in a way that produces creativity and excitement
- Use their management processes to hold the company and its employees hostage
- Are bringing in leadership that have demonstrated a greater interest in personal celebrity than in sustainable management practice
- Have low employee engagement and customer feedback scores
How to Influence the Management Practices of Your Company– Many organizations have management processes in place that are quite robust. Where they fall down is in how they are practiced. This is because how these processes are practiced are often left to individual interpretation, which is limited to the individual’s experience and biases. Some managers are excellent individually, and demonstrate awesome management practice. Others are learning as they go, emulating the leaders they want to be, and hoping they are being taught the right stuff. Some are even paying large premiums to get an MBA, which invariably doesn’t actually teach them the process skills of management such as gaining consensus, managing people, and making efficient multi-disciplinary decisions.
The secret to organizational value is to have management practices that are consistently high across a large number of managers. Leadership has an interesting position in the equation. In a company that has and practices robust management processes effectively, leaders can be created. What the market values when they see a change in leadership is the leader’s ability to implement and execute an effective set of management processes.
For those of you who are leaders, this means spending your own time learning the best practices, experimenting with them on an ongoing basis, and mastering them over time. For managers, it also means working in an organization where the leader values the investment in creating effective managers. These practices can be learned with an executive coach who has explicit experience in the development and application of management practices. No matter how you get there, the best chance you have at increasing a company’s valuation and stock price sustainably is if you take a look deep inside the guts of the company at its management processes and practices.