professional development reading list

Before You Unplug, Read This! —My Professional Development Reading List

We’re awash in news and information these days. It can be so tempting to just unplug from it all. But when your work requires you to remain “in the know,” it’s not that simple. How do you keep your head above water AND stay informed? My strategy is to focus my professional development reading list around a few key resources.

I realized that I use this strategy about a year ago, when I was giving a guest lecture at my undergraduate alma mater, American University in Washington, D.C. During our discussion about the role of investor relations and its intersection with Corporate Communications, one of the students asked a terrific question, “What do you read?”

It was a great question because it required me to really think about how I approach staying informed. It also kept me thinking long after I walked out of the classroom—Am I reading broadly enough? How do I stay informed without getting bogged down in information overload?

Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources for staying up-to-date, entertained, and sane. (Don’t worry, I do not have a business relationship with any of the resources listed, nor do they know I’ve referenced them here. I just happen to find them helpful and enjoyable.)

My Professional Development Reading List:

News: I scan the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Financial Times each morning. I find the NYT Dealbook section, which specifically caters to investment news, to be particularly worthy. I also subscribe to multiple industry newsletters and scan the headlines for key updates each morning.

Business Strategy: McKinsey & Co’s strategy and corporate finance research provides good food for thought. As a global management consulting firm, they provide great insights into engaging with businesses, governments, and NGo’s. Also on my list of must-reads is the Harvard Business Review. I review these monthly (or while flying—airplane time is great for catching up on your professional development reading list).

Industry: The National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) sends a weekly email newsletter to members. It is always a helpful roundup of the latest information in regulation, disclosure, and market movements. The “Strategist” publication from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) also provides thoughtful commentary on communications best practices and innovative ideas.

In my Feedly: VentureBeat, StrictlyVC, PEHub to stay informed on the Venture Capital and Private Equity fronts. Plus, Recode and TechMeme to keep up with my friends in all things Tech.

Books: I also try to keep up with some of the latest business books to see what’s new and popular. Some of my recent favorites include: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis (The Undoing Project is next on my professional development reading list – I can’t wait!), Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism, by Jeff Gramm, and 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

Of course, I also spend plenty (too much?) time checking out Runner’s World, Food52, my local restaurant reviews, and Facebook (but not Snapchat…not yet.) We all need to take a break from the professional stuff once in awhile, right?

It’s so easy to lose ourselves in the narrow confines of our industries. Keeping a professional development reading list that includes articles and information that is outside of your comfort zone can really open you up to possibilities, you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

Reading is one of my favorite way to get unstuck when I’m feeling especially siloed. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to broaden my worldview. And Audacia Strategies gives me a platform for helping other professionals break out of stale patterns to truly engage their stakeholders. If you’re ready to look at investor relations in a bold, new way, contact me today!

In the meantime, let’s keep the conversation going. I’d love to see your comment below! What’s on your professional development reading list? What are your must-reads each day? Best book or article you’ve read recently?

Photo credit: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

ROI

3 Reasons the Boldest Investments Have the Biggest ROI

Starting a business is an investment of cash, time, and self. When I launched Audacia Strategies last December, I wasn’t sure if I would see a positive ROI. Afterall, I thrived in the corporate world! I never, ever saw myself as an entrepreneur.

But after traveling around Nicaragua, I realized that there is an entrepreneur inside all of us. From the coconut stand owner on the corner in San Juan del Sur, to the owners of an amazing island restaurant in Lake Nicaragua, to the artisan working in his hammock workshop in Grenada, it seemed that everyone around me was boldly investing in themselves.

So, I took a chance on myself and on my passion for building this business. After a year, I can happily say, I have seen a positive ROI.

Here are my biggest realizations and returns from the past year:

1. Businesses don’t just happen.

In business, a positive ROI results from nurturing relationships, gaining trust, and building credibility. Landing clients requires hard work and innovative thinking…and closing the deal. One of biggest challenges for me has been putting myself out there. I mean, people sometimes say “no.” Can you imagine?

I realized that success does not simply arrive at your doorstep. Like a well choreographed dance, success is the result of planning, practicing, and making the right adjustments along the way. At times I feel out-of-step with the music, but I remind myself that this comes with the territory whenever you are learning something new.

2. I can’t be all things to all people.

In talking with both new and seasoned entrepreneurs, one of the toughest parts of owning a business is figuring out who to work with and gaining the confidence to act on that decision. It has been especially hard for me to turn down potential clients who are simply not a good fit.

Even though I would really love to help everyone who crosses my path, that’s just not realistic. If you are looking for someone to help you come up with a creative corporate team-building event, you really should ask someone else. Trust me!

I learned that even if it doesn’t make sense for me to help someone directly, I can often refer them to some very talented partners. There are so many ways to be helpful besides directly taking on every potential client.

3. It takes a village to build a business.

I couldn’t have done this all on my own. I have an amazing support team from my accountant who enforces rigor in my bookkeeping, to my website team who built a website that truly reflects Audacia’s unique style, to the friends and colleagues who have spent countless hours talking strategy, offering support, and connecting me with others. I am damn lucky to have found this incredible network of people!

I am paying it forward by talking strategy, offering support, and helping other new entrepreneurs make connections. I am proud to be part of a real community of people who are passionate about business and using their talents to make a difference in their corners of the universe.

So, happy first anniversary Audacia Strategies! And many thanks to my amazing clients who I have had the privilege of working with this year, from helping them better communicate with their stakeholders to surviving complex corporate transformations of all types.

During that exhilarating trip to Nicaragua, I also discovered there is no magic dust that makes someone an entrepreneur. You just have to want it and work at it. I wrote my initial business plan as I flew home from Nicaragua and officially launched Audacia Strategies on December 3, 2015.

If you would like to see for yourself why I’m so proud of Audacia Strategies, let’s talk! I would love to schedule a FREE consultation and discuss how I can help your organization take your next audacious step forward.

Photo credit: dinozzz

business relationships

5 Important Business Relationships to Be Grateful for

One of our company values at Audacia Strategies is “Relationships Matter: It’s not ‘just business.’ It’s about people working together toward a common goal. We bring respect, honesty, and candor to the table every time.” This week, as we pause to reflect on everything and everyone that make us feel grateful, let’s specially consider the business relationships that too often go unrecognized.

In business, as in life, it is relationships that are the most important. While it is easy to be grateful for business relationships that are simple and especially lucrative, when it comes to those relationships that take a little more effort, feeling the appropriate level of appreciation can be difficult.

What are the benefits of being grateful?

Expressing gratitude makes you happier.

The next time you are having trouble mustering up appreciation for clients who treat every project like it’s an emergency or investors who question every piece of advice you offer, keep in mind that a little bit of gratitude can go a long way.

Research shows that being grateful makes you happier. Having an attitude of gratitude really is a choice we can make. And while there’s more to genuine gratitude than saying a distracted “thanks,” we often do underestimate the value of a heartfelt “thank you.”

Expressing gratitude can affect your bottom line.

Given that feeling grateful makes you happier, it’s also not surprising that others are more likely to want to work with those who adopt a habit of expressing gratitude. There is also research showing that being truly grateful can have a meaningful impact on your bottom line.

According to one survey, 90% of financial advisors who made an effort to regularly thank clients experienced greater success than those who were less consistent in expressing appreciation for their business relationships.

Expressing gratitude brings others to the table.

Beyond the personal benefits of expressing gratitude, it also uplifts those to whom you express gratitude. We all know how nice it feels have someone else acknowledge the effort and work we put into a project. This is no less important when you are working toward a common goal with your team.

Being grateful for the work that others do is especially important in cases where you know you will be interacting with the same individual or group multiple times, which is in most cases. Thankfulness invites others to the table and engages them as a vital part of the team.

So, in the spirit of feeling gratitude during the season of reflection, let’s take some time out to remember those business relationships that we sometimes take for granted:

1. Your financial planning and analysis (FP&A) team.

This team works hard all year to crank through your business data, strategize, and manage your corporate forecast. In addition to creating your organization’s extended financial plan, FP&A departments also generate management reports, analyze financial trends, calculate the monetary effects of potential business decisions, and advise company leaders.

When it comes to getting your budget done, managing earnings, and reporting on whether you are hitting your goals, where would your company be without this team of individuals?

2. Your most challenging client.

We all deal with difficult clients from time to time—when you see his number on the caller ID, you have to take a deep breath and review the meditation methods your yoga teacher taught you.

Even if worrying about this client keeps you up at night and makes you question your career choices, this client also pushes you to work harder and provide more value than you thought possible. Challenges are what keep us on our toes and keep things interesting. So, send that client a special note expressing your appreciation.

3. Your most challenging investor or analyst.

Being stuck in our own perspective for too long can give us tunnel vision. In these situations, anyone who can help us see our company in a different way is a huge asset. This is the value that a challenging investor or analyst can provide.

These individuals might not always express their feedback in the most constructive way, but if you have a tough skin, you can really learn a lot from them. As long as you remember that the criticism isn’t personal, this kind of challenge can help you and your extended team better articulate your messages and evaluate your business strategy.

4. Your spouse, significant other, best friend, etc.

All of those who listen as you talk through your work “dirt” are crucial to helping you stay grounded. When you have a hard day at the office, nothing is more comforting than being able to come home to someone who loves and supports you unconditionally. Hug your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you whenever possible.

5. The Service Professionals Who Make Our Lives Easier.

Last, but not least, there are service professionals and other support personnel who work extra hard to give you the time to focus on what is important to you on a daily basis.

I’m talking about the local barista who knows you take your triple-shot mocha latte with soy milk and extra whipped cream. Or the waitress at your favorite lunch spot who makes sure your dressing always comes on the side. When was the last time you took an extra second out of your day to make eye contact and say “thank you?”

At Audacia Strategies, we make a special effort to live up to our company values and cultivate strong business relationships. I want to extend the deepest gratitude to all our clients (who are never challenging), friends, and family for their continued support over the past year.

Photo credit: kritchanut / 123RF Stock Photo

weekend reading

Weekend Reading

We survived another political convention season, my friends. High fives all around.

You may be shocked to hear that there has been plenty of news cycle beyond the U.S. presidential race with Q2 earnings, economic reports (hello July nonfarm payrolls!), and a new all-time high for the S&P500. So much for that old saying about “sell in May.”

As we head into the weekend, here’s a quick round-up of some of the news that caught our attention. Consider it our gift to you to keep you entertained and informed during your evening commute (for my train/subway riders), Friday afternoon wind-down (wine-down?) or over your weekend morning coffee. Cheers.

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Companies Routinely Steer Analysts to Deliver Earnings Surprises (Wall Street Journal)

We received a LOT of calls and emails over this article.

Audacia takeaway: Investor Relations is about making sure that there is transparency in company communications with investors and analysts. Ensuring that investors and analysts are well aware of public information is a legitimate and very appropriate activity. Analysts, like all of us, are awash in news and data. Many sell-side analysts cover upwards of 20 companies; buy side analysts may cover hundreds of companies. It is critical that companies ensure that their public messages are heard and comprehended so that they can be fairly valued.

That said, investor relations professionals (IROs) operate within SEC regulations called Regulation Fair Disclosure. There are legal ramifications for those companies who do not operate within those regulations (see: Office Depot). Additionally, investor relations professionals should encourage their employers to have a well-documented quiet period policy and stick to it.

We are always happy to discuss disclosure strategy. If you or your organization has questions, drop us a line, a tweet, or give a call. We’ve got your back.

Daily Report: Venture Capital’s Endangered Middle Class (New York Times)

Two weeks ago, we highlighted Entrepreneur.com’s report that venture capital placements are up 20.5% over Q1’16. This week, we are looking at venture capital fundraising. Per the New York Times, “In the first half of the year…just five venture firms raised $7.4 billion, or about one-third of the $22.9 billion raised over all by V.C.s.”

What could this mean? Well, it could mean that with a significant concentration of funds in a few firms we could see more concentrated placements, potentially leaving mid-sized funds and companies at a disadvantage.

Audacia Takeaway: Lots of game left to play here but it’s worth keeping an eye on… and it may open a unique business opportunity for those willing to step into the void.

Regulators Ask Big Banks to Give More Details About Trading Activity (Wall Street Journal)

In this era of high-frequency trading and dark pools, it is interesting to see that the SEC may request that big banks report trading revenue by product line (e.g., bonds, stocks, commodities, etc.). Today, trading revenues are reported en masse with little transparency into what might be driving a bank’s trading results.

Audacia Takeaway: This could be an interesting turn of events for investors by shedding light not just on what is trading but how it trades.

weekend reading

Weekend Reading

Ah summer, the season of sipping lemonade (or your libation of choice) by the side of the pool, long lazy days in hammocks and chasing the ice cream truck down the street.

Oh. Wait. It is also the season of earnings, political conventions, strategic planning, mid-year reviews and flights delayed by thunderstorms (ORD. Always.).

For those of you, like me, who are not in your hammock with a libation but are coming into the weekend at full speed, here’s your short round-up of some of the more thought-provoking news of the week. Feel free to peruse these links over your Saturday morning coffee or, you know, that hammock libation. Cheers.

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C.E.O.s Meet in Secret Over the Sorry State of Public Companies (NYTimes)

When Warren Buffett speaks the world listens. And when Warren Buffett, Mary Barra, Larry Fink and ten additional leading public company CEOs, investors, and fund managers sign their name to a set of “Commonsense Corporate Governance Principles” it’s time to sit down and think seriously about the current state of public companies. The group came together to advocate that public companies take a “long-term approach to management and governance of their business.”

Read the open letter and full set of governance principles here

Audacia Takeaway: There is hope for those of us who really do appreciate -and yearn- for more common sense in the world of governance. It’s time to stop being too “fancy” with our governance and our messaging. Real talk works.

There is a lot to like in this manifesto. Here’s one of my favorite comments in the Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance

A company should not feel obligated to provide earnings guidance – and should determine whether providing earnings guidance for the company’s shareholders does more harm than good. If a company does provide earnings guidance, the company should be realistic and avoid inflated projections. Making short-term decisions to beat guidance (or any performance benchmark) is likely to be value destructive in the long run

Venture Capital Investments Rebound for Tech Startups (Entrepreneur.com)

As the public markets go, so goes venture capital apparently. Entrepreneur.com is reporting that venture capital placements are up 20.5% over Q116. But it’s not all fun and buzz, valuations are down 30-50% from last year and VCs are getting more selective.

Audacia Takeaway: Differentiation and relevance still matter.

My favorite comment from the article

“We are being more selective,” said Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and faculty adviser to the university’s venture capital fund. “We’re not going to invest in everything that says ‘We are the Uber of X’ or ‘the Facebook of Y.'”

How Market Strategists Got 2016 Right and Wrong at the Same Time (Bloomberg.com)

Once again proving that the investment crystal ball more often acts like a Magic 8 Ball, “Reply hazy try again.”

In a year that has brought us Brexit, lone-wolf terror attacks, attempted military coups and a U.S. presidential election, economic forecasting is even more difficult than usual.

Audacia Takeaway: Refer back to our first set of news stories today. Run the business for the long term.

My favorite comment from the article

“We are in a world where you’re going to fixed income to get your capital appreciation, and you’re going to equities to get your yield,” said Bhanu Baweja, the London-based head of emerging-market cross-asset strategy at UBS. “It’s an upside-down world.”

Welcome to Audacia Strategies

And so it begins…

Hi there, I’m Katy. Welcome to the Audacia Strategies blog. I think you’re going to like it here.

A quick note about us, Audacia Strategies delivers investor relations and corporate communications to businesses that are in transformation. Transformation isn’t for the faint of heart – you want to do it right the first time. We help you get the most bang for your transformation buck by communicating effectively and completely across your stakeholders. You can learn more about what we do over on our Services page.

But this blog isn’t about Audacia Strategies. We have a whole website for that! Over in this corner of the world I’ll be talking about some of the latest “ripped from the headlines” examples of companies in transformation, providing some Investor Relations/Corporate Communications 101, and interviewing folks who have been in the trenches through big transformations and lived to tell the tale.

Most importantly, this blog is about you. I’m looking forward to hearing your perspectives, challenges and successes. I hope you’ll comment on the posts, ask questions, make suggestions, and drop me line at katy@audaciastrategies.com or tweet at me @KatyHerr. Conversations are much more fun than monologues, right?

I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Let’s talk.

 

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