The following 7 rules apply to public companies across a variety of industries – particularly to Enterprise Software, FinTech and Information Services companies. 1.) Make Your Numbers 2.) Regular, Transparent Investor Communication 3.) Drive Expanding Operating/EBITDA Margins 4.) Don’t Stockpile Cash 5.) Control Waste 6.) Use Debt as a Tax Shield 7.) Board Composition –…
We created the CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index in 2017 to illustrate our strong belief that founder CEOs are better qualified to lead Technology companies than are “hired” CEOs/ professional managers. The CEORater Index remains undefeated through July 13th 2018.
The CEORater Technology Founder CEO Index returned 24.7% and 22.8% on a Weighted and Unweighted Return basis respectively (click here for detail) during the January 2nd 2018 – July 13th 2018 period.
The S&P 500 Information Technology (TKR: S5INFT) returned 13.7% on a Weighted basis over the same period.
The Powershares S&P 500® Equal Weight Technology ETF (TKR: RYT) returned 14.5% on an Unweighted basis over the same period.
Personality Analytics Holds the Key as to Why Apple Was More Innovative Under Steve Jobs than Tim Cook
Apple has lost its creative mojo under Tim Cook. Incremental product enhancements have become the norm, replacing a time when revolutionary new products, space age design and landmark advertising was the standard. What changed? Look no further than the CEO chair. Apple founder, CEO and creative genius Steve Jobs prematurely passed away in October 2011. Jobs’ hand-picked successor, Tim Cook, is by experience an operator with a background steeped in supply chain experience. Cook could not be more different from Jobs from a personality standpoint (see our table below).
The importance of assessing a CEO’s personality when conducting a CEO selection process (corporate boards, executive recruiters), or investment due diligence process can not be overstated. This is especially true of industry verticals marked by rapid change where the cost of having an ineffective CEO can be extremely high. It is not so rare to find a situation where a CEO, Board and institutional investor base were slow to realize that a given company’s customers were migrating elsewhere due to product obsolescence or other factors that ought to have been recognized. Few participants want to acknowledge this type of deterioration early or mid-cycle and only do so when it’s too late.
CEOs that create “adaptable” corporate cultures are less likely to lead companies that suffer irreparable declines due to product under-investment or other negligent factors. Adaptable cultures are less likely to be caught off guard and instead lead market change.
Corporate cultures are often an extension of the CEO’s personality. Yes, CEOs influence culture and corporate strategy even in mega-cap companies. Look no further than Microsoft (MSFT) during Steve Ballmer’s tenure as compared to Satya Nadella‘s time as CEO. MSFT’s product & services strategy is dramatically different as is the firm’s approach to competing and partnering with other technology companies.
We highly value the personality trait “openness” in large part because of its relationship to adaptable cultures. Steve Jobs and Tim Cook score similarly on the openness scale – 92nd percentile and 94th percentile respectively. However, looking at the personality sub-traits under openness, Jobs scores far higher than Cook in the two most creative personality sub-traits: “artistic interests” and “imagination”.
Given that Cook lags in these areas, one would need to get comfortable with the idea that a non-creative personality like his (32nd percentile and 14th percentile as detailed below) is capable of generating massive creative output from Apple’s 120,000-plus employees. This is asking too much of Tim Cook in our view. What doesn’t come naturally doesn’t come easily and may not come at all.
Our May 2018 CEO personality analytics research piece may be found here: Personality Analytics: Technology CEOs Analyzed
Our recent podcast on the subject:
We extracted data from our recent CEORater CEO Personality Analytics research findings. We have focused on the personality trait “Openness” for the purpose of this note.
Recall that CEO’s who score high along the “Openness” spectrum tend to be more adaptable and are better at navigating through changing customer markets, particularly those that may be experiencing disruption from new market entrants, changes in technology, etc.
CEO’s who score low on Openness are less adaptable and less effective in navigating choppy waters, less effective in driving growth during periods of change. Note that ACIW CEO Phil Heasley scores low on Openness (75th percentile) and how this score compares to ACIW’s financial and operational performance.
For the record we are not long or short any of the stocks mentioned in our research.
1.) Be Bold:
- Similar to VCs, public investors want to invest in a bold vision. (See Tesla). Why does TSLA enjoy a premium valuation to other Auto OEMs? Answer: Musk’s vision and spin.
2.) Don’t Be Bullied by Investors – Dictate Your Story:
- Tell the Street you plan to take margins down temporarily to pursue “X” initiative. Investors will cut you slack so long as you explain the rationale, the execution and the intended outcome.
3.) Balance Execution Today with Investment for Tomorrow:
- Don’t fall into the short-term EPS growth trap at the expense of new product development, keeping your products fresh and building a culture of innovation.
- If you pursue the short-term – investors will love you in the short-term (fleeting). The key is to build long-term value over years and decades (see AMZN, CSGP and SSNC as examples of the latter).
Making Numbers Is Not Enough The hallmark of a great company is not one that simply meets or beats consensus estimates with some regularity. Imagine if Reed Hastings and Netflix chose not to pursue the company’s over-the-top (“OTT”) strategy when investors where hungry for DVD profits. Imagine if Jeff Bezos and Amazon scaled back their…
We Have Entered an Unprecedented Era of Shareholder Tolerance It is interesting that corporate boards and institutional investors are willing to tolerate “Distracted CEOs” and founder CEOs who wish to exercise outsized control of the companies they founded. Both are examples of poor corporate governance. Our definition of a Distracted CEO is the CEO that…
Spotify’s looming IPO has the potential to re-configure the investment banking industry, at least insofar as the IPO process.
In our view Intellectual Curiosity is the most important attribute that a CEO may possess. Listen to our recent Podcast on the subject.