Background: Seeing Numbers Without the Story
A few years ago, I worked in the Equity Research department of Credit Suisse. During the morning calls, we were given the pitchbooks of dozens of companies ready to be taken on road shows. While the financial data and models were interesting and well-crafted, for me they didn’t truly tell the story of the company, where it was going, and how it would truly grow. As a result, I would every now and then try to find the analysts crafting the books and ask a few qualitative questions, to help them tell the growth story of the companies they were working on.
My frustration continued when I went to the private equity world. The pitchbooks I would see were still too numbers-heavy. There was no passion aspect told about any side of these companies. It actually wasn’t difficult to put together stories with upper management and the executive teams, but it wasn’t done as often as it should be.
Things have changed. Today, companies as small as Warby Parker and Kickstarter, and as large as General Electric, are writing documents that go deep within the company, showcasing features that one would never be able to find at first blush.
Based on my professional experiences, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for writing a winning pitchbook.
Winning Pitchbook Dos and Dont’s
Do: Collect Stories
From upper management to the shop floor, get personal stories from employees to understand where the company has truly grown. For example, a story about how a new technology is helping strengthen warehouse shipping and organization strategies shows that management is willing to evolve and make the process better for both employees and the company.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Reach Out
Many pitchbook architects may never see the company up close due to deadlines. However, it doesn’t mean they can’t do some side research and find the right people inside to have those conversations to add to the book.
Do: Showcase Employees
We’ve all seen some great workers who go above and beyond in various ways. Tell their stories!
Don’t: Dwell on One Employee Segment
You might learn that the lifeblood of the production shifts could be a young 24-year old woman, or even a 30+ year veteran.
Do: Ask About Customer Stories
Like employees, you could get some great accounts from customers. Social media is one way to find them, but you’ll get the best from talking to the representatives of the company directly.
Do: Find the Hidden Angle
Investors, sales teams, and institutions will do their research to learn more about the companies you’re writing about. Your goal should be to surprise them with an angle that they haven’t thought of.
Though not pitchbook-related, here’s one example of finding a hidden angle: Private equity firm, Falconhead Capital, did some unorthodox due diligence when they looked at Rita’s Italian Ices; they went to Facebook and polled customers for personal feedback. It’s an unheard-of move but it helped long-time fans get comfortable with the idea that a beloved company was going to be taken private by an investment firm.
By focusing on these tips, you’ll be closer to crafting a pitchbook that couples the quantitative facts with a strong story, explaining where the company is, where it’s going, and how it’s planning to get there.