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On the road to IPO? 6 obstacles to avoid at all costs

All eyes are on you when your company goes IPO. Everyone, it seems, wants to know the company’s every move—its past results, its risks, its future projections. Working at a newly public company can make employees feel like they’re in a giant fish bowl with everyone swimming around and crashing into each other. Unless, that is, the company planned ahead for a bit of mayhem.

A new intelligence report written by RoseRyan CEO Kathy Ryan warns top executives of pre-IPO companies about six potential pitfalls that await them on the multi-year journey they’re about to undertake. These are obstacles along the IPO path that can easily sink a deal.

By being more aware of the potential problem areas, companies have a better chance at a better ride (it’ll be bumpy no matter what—as anyone who has suffered through the aftershocks of an IPO can tell you). They’re also likelier to achieve a tighter corporate culture on the other side, a reduced risk of public mistakes (like a messy restatement), and a realistic, satisfactory share price.

Kathy emphasizes in the new report, The IPO journey: 6 potential obstacles to avoid for a smooth trip, that going public is much different that actually being a public company. To do it right, companies should view the entire deal as having three phases—the IPO prep, the IPO process itself, and the IPO hangover of suddenly being public. Along the way they should stay away from the following missteps:

Avoiding the tough questions: Kathy reveals the hard questions that need to be asked, including whether the company is moving forward with the transaction for the right reasons.

Skipping the prep work: There are years of laying foundations before the journey gets into the S-1 frenzy, from getting the financial house in order to figuring out the key metrics that will be shared and how they will be expressed publicly.

Being unprepared for a big culture shock: Senior executives rarely consider the transformation employees are expected to go through as the company changes from an entrepreneurial mindset to the more disciplined, accountable organization of a publicly traded company beholden to new regulations. The culture can—and should be—managed during the IPO process.

Lacking the right talent at the right time: Just as the culture should be evaluated, so should the skills. To what extent can existing employees be trained to withstand the needs of a public company, and to what extent does the company need to look outside to fill in the skills gap? It’s better to wonder this as the company goes along—rather than risk overloading employees more than they need to be.

Being in denial about the IPO hangover: There is a hard truth about going IPO and it’s what happens on “Day 2,” the day after the IPO, when the company starts operating in a whole new world, and the next few years that follow. It is a tsunami of work. It takes awhile for everyone to adjust, for efficiencies to take hold and new processes to become routine.

Not actively managing the share price: Many executives think they cannot influence how investors perceive and thus value their company. But it is possible, with effective messaging by company leaders, who need to put themselves in investors’ shoes and hone their storytelling skills to speak their language.

Preempt the mishaps. Prepare the troops. And get ready for the exciting trip that lies ahead. Download The IPO journey: 6 potential obstacles to avoid for a smooth trip.

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