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为什么CEO需要像激进投资者那样思考?

Tim Ryan 2018年10月08日

对所有管理者来说,常常对镜反省业务策略和业绩表现,却不能看透本质。

工作台前被蒙上眼的商界人士。Dave and Les Jacobs—Getty Images/Blend Images

一位管理者能够客观冷静地看待公司,是获得成功必备的最重要能力之一。

但对所有管理者来说,常常对镜反省业务策略和业绩表现,却不能看透本质。这种客观性的缺乏,或许就是从2012年以来,激进投资者项目发起数量年度增加18%的原因之一。

解决这一问题,或许可以保护你的公司免受潜在的激进投资项目伤害。但更重要的是,长远来看它可以帮助你的公司创造更多价值。

采用激进投资者的心态

当许多人开始关注你的公司时,一个保护自身免受股东激进主义伤害的关键策略,就是采用激进主义的心态。那句古老的谚语此处适用:“如果你不能打败他们,那就加入他们。”

被激进投资者关注对于管理者和董事们来说,是件头疼的事,但要记住股东激进主义者只是寻求其投资组合的价值增加。

作为一个整体,激进投资者提升了股东价值,通过客观地、毫无感情色彩地查看资产负债表和各项数据,他们做到了这一点。对他们来说,这不是私人的事,至少不常是。他们查看可以公开获取的关于你的公司的信息,却并不了解你的业务日常运作。

这些日常运作的具体信息,让你更加了解公司各项运作的前因后果,但同时也会制造公司策略和执行上的一些盲点和无意识的偏见。你或许不想看到或者不肯承认,公司运作本可以更好,或者成本可以更低,因为你知道你的员工是多么地努力,或者你认为你有着未来改变商业格局的创新项目。

如同激进投资者那样,有关错过的机会这样的痛苦问题,你要乐于让你的团队去面对。你不能害怕令人不快的有关公司业务的谈话,也要勇于问你的团队:我们的业务组合是不是太宽泛?我们的利润能否更高?我们的业务模式执行和变化地是否够快够效率?

比较同行,专注于你的战略、业绩和执行

像激进投资者那样思考,也意味着触及CEO责任的核心——设立和执行公司战略。

专注于战略,意味着客观地看待你的公司业务,并将之与竞争者比较。但简单来说

说,当你用这面透镜专注于你的核心战略,你开始更苛刻地审查业务支出、竞争优势和业务组合,以及改变业务形态的步伐快慢。

这样做后,你开始观察到一些你本来不会看到的事情。比如,你或许会看到尽管你的公司仍是市场老大,但你的市场份额和收入减少了。类似的,你或许会看到,如果把你的成本结构考虑进去,你的毛利不如你的竞争对手。或者你还会意识到,尽管某一业务单元在过去的表现很好,但长远来看它仍然不适合留在你的业务组合里。

跨越所谓短期和长期的辩论

过去几年里,投资者和商业领袖一直与所谓抑制公司发展的“短期行为”作斗争,以便投资长远。这一辩论很重要,近期又被炒热,因为商业圆桌会议在几个月前宣布支持移除季度业绩指标。

激进投资者们因只考虑短期和自己赚大钱而臭名昭著。但是,作为一名客观冷静的商业领袖,或许我们应该问自己:“为什么激进投资者或含蓄或直白地怀疑我们的能力,不愿将钱重新投入业务中——比如技术升级或者兼并收购?是不是因为他们不认为投资有保障,或者他们质疑我们的能力能否对这一投资产生回报?”

现实是,对于许多公司来说,短期的业绩和着眼长远而改变公司业务都是必要的。许多激进投资者是可以接受长期投资的,但“长期”不能意味着不靠谱。公司应该专注于长远战略,但也不能以牺牲短期和中期的业绩目标为代价。

同样道理,如果公司的变革和更新不够迅速,激进投资者不会投资。因此,沟通是关键:你必须将你正在创造的长远价值清晰地告诉你最大的几位投资者,同时也要倾听他们的看法。缺了与投资者和股东的有效外部沟通,他们就不会明白你的长期业务安排。这就会给你制造麻烦,不能很好地平衡短期利润的现实需要和长期战略目标及执行。

采用这些策略应能帮助你将公司业绩做到最大化,同时在过程中希望能免受股东激进主义的干扰。最终,这些策略都是指向为公司创造更多的价值。如果你能够创造价值,并有效地与股东沟通,他们中的大多数会专注于投资长远,而不是搞一些激进项目。(财富中文网)

蒂姆·瑞恩是普华永道的美国业务主席和高级合伙人。

译者:宣峰

As executives, being able to look at our organizations objectively and dispassionately is one of the most important skills we must possess to succeed.

Yet all too often when we look in the mirror and examine our business strategy and performance, we don’t quite see what is really there. This lack of objectivity is perhaps one of the reasons why the number of activist investor campaigns launched has increased by 18% annually since 2012.

Addressing this problem may help protect your company from a potential activist campaign. But more importantly, it will go a long way toward helping your business create more value.

Adopt an activist investor mindset

At a time when there are more people looking over your shoulder, one key strategy to protecting yourself from shareholder activism is to adopt an activist mindset. The age-old adage applies in this case: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

While attention from activist investors may cause headaches for executives and directors, it’s important to keep in mind that shareholder activists are simply seeking increases in value to their portfolios.

As a collective force, they have improved shareholder value and have done so by looking at balance sheets and numbers objectively and without emotion. For them, it’s not personal—or at least not always. They are looking at your publicly available information and do so without the details of your business’s day in and day out.

While having these details gives you more context about how your company may be performing, it also may create blind spots and unconscious bias about your firm’s strategy and execution. You may not want to see or admit that performance could be better or that costs could be lower because you know how hard your employees are working or because you have what you think is the next game-changing innovation.

Like an activist investor, you have to be willing to confront your teams with tough questions about missed opportunities. You can’t be afraid of having uncomfortable conversations about your business or asking your teams: Are our portfolios too broad? Could our margins be better? Are we executing or changing our business model fast and effectively enough?

Focus on your strategy, performance, and execution vis-a-vis your peers

Thinking like an activist investor also means getting to the core of what CEOs are responsible for—setting and executing the business strategy.

Focusing on strategy means looking at your business objectively and seeing how it is performing in comparison to your competitors. Put simply, when you’re focused on your core business strategy through this lens, you begin to more critically examine your business costs, competitive margins, and portfolios, as well as the pace with which you are changing your business.

As a result, you begin to observe things that you might not have seen otherwise. For example, you might see that while you’re still number one in the marketplace, you’re losing market share or margins. Similarly, you might see that your margins are not comparable to your competitors’, calling into question your cost structure. Or you might realize that even though the past performance of a specific business unit has been good, it still might not justify keeping the business in your portfolio in the long run.

Getting past the short-term and long-term debate

For the past few years, investors and business leaders have been fighting about curbing corporate “short-termism” in order to invest for the long term. This debate is important and recently gained traction again when the Business Roundtable announced a couple of months ago that it supported moving away from providing quarterly guidance.

Activists have a reputation for only caring all about the short-term and capturing money to enrich themselves. However, as objective and dispassionate leaders, perhaps we should be asking ourselves: “Why do activists implicitly or explicitly doubt our ability to invest the money back into the business—in the form of upgrades like technology transformation—or M&A? Is it because they don’t think that investment is warranted or do they doubt our ability to generate a return on that investment?”

The reality is that delivering short-term results and changing one’s business for the long term is necessary for most companies. Many activist investors are fine with investing for the long term, but “long term” cannot mean a lack of accountability. Businesses should be focused on their long-term strategy, but it can’t be done at the expense of intermediary milestones.

Similarly, activist investors zero in on businesses where they don’t see changes or transformations happening fast enough. Therefore, communication is key: You have to clearly communicate to your largest investors about the long-term value you are creating and stay connected with them while listening to their perspectives. Without effective external communications with investors and shareholders, they won’t understand your long-term business plans. This then can create challenges for you in finding the right balance between the reality of short-term profits and the goal of longer-term strategy and execution.

Taking on these strategies should help maximize your company’s business performance, and in the process, hopefully protect against shareholder activism. Ultimately, these strategies are all about creating more value for your organization. And if you are able to create more value and communicate it effectively to your shareholders, more of them will be focused on investing for the long term instead of going along with an activist campaign.

Tim Ryan is the U.S. chairman and senior partner at PwC.

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