The Chief Financial Officer of a company was a highly respected, knowledgeable member of the leadership team of a company that was seeking to be acquired. He had spent years in the business, and decades in the industry; the team had faith in his knowledge and capabilities.
However, whenever he got up to speak, audiences typically got lost. He was extremely low key, mired in the details, and unable to get to the point. Often, even his own team would miss his key points as they tried to listen and interpret the data. As the company prepared for sale, the M & A team realized it was urgent that he become adept at telling the story behind the numbers.
- We began the engagement by focusing on coaching the CFO. We had him get up and deliver the first draft of his presentation as if buyers were in the room.
- As is typical, he and his team had spent considerable time preparing the slides, but had not given thought to how to present them.
- The slides were difficult to read and weighed down with graphics, legends, and abbreviations. As the CFO spoke, even he seemed uncertain about where to focus his remarks.
- We prompted him with questions such as, “What is the most important point of this slide?” and “What would that mean to the buyer?” and, sometimes the best question of all - “So what?”
- As we probed, the CFO became energized, focused and better able to explain it. As we worked through several sessions, he began to anticipate the issues and answers before we asked the questions that sophisticated buyers would pose. At the same time, we included his team and counterparts in other business units, so the same story would be seamlessly repeated in all of the formal and informal conversations that were to come.
- Through this process the story gelled and the CFO became increasingly confident and self-assured. While these were proven techniques we had deployed for thousands of executives, they were a breath of fresh air to the CFO, and people sensed it. They could see him growing more energized as the process evolved.
As is often the case, the data kept changing, right up until the day before the presentations. But the CFO was now so confident in the story that he delivered the presentation with conviction and command of the salient points. He was also more flexible in Q & A, since the pepper sessions with our team and the bank had prepared him for even the toughest questions.
The result was a financial story that strongly connected to the business story and strengthened everyone's trust in the assertions of the presentations. The business was ultimately sold to an ideal strategic buyer... above the asking price.