With fees and expenses often reaching six or seven figures, taking a company public is risky business when fewer than 30 percent of new IPOs are trading at or above their debut price. Companies can expect to spend, on average, 5 percent of their value during the IPO process alone. In 2015, fewer companies were successful at going public than in any other year since 2009, as reported by Inc.
If your company is considering going public, the time to ensure your board is adopting best security practices is right now. Public companies have various reporting requirements and stringent guidelines on how they prepare and distribute materials. By adopting best security practices at the beginning of the process, directors on the board and their teams are able to make a smoother transition from a private to a public company.
According to a report by Ethical Boardroom, more companies are turning to board portals as a way to improve security. For the pre-IPO company, the use of a board portal can provide a burgeoning board of directors with a platform that assists them through the IPO process while decreasing the risks involved with going public, including:
1. Effective and Secure Communications
Before an IPO, companies may need assistance in installing a board portal. Rather than communicating via email, board members can communicate more effectively and securely through a board portal. This eliminates the risks of information being transferred between personal and professional email accounts. Members can also make notes on materials for their own use or share these notes with selected members for further discussion. A board portal solution also enables members to collaborate and ask questions in one location.
2. Gathering Information to Meet Requirements
The switch from a private to a public company means meeting new government requirements and regulations. Preparation to meet these regulations in pre-IPO stage includes gathering information for investigation by the auditor, underwriter, and the legal team. There is a whole due diligence process the company must go through. Much of it is gathering and categorizing information, such as bylaws, organizational documents, and a list of subsidiaries, to put into a repository. The process usually begins six to 12 months ahead of filing to go public. The information gathered during this time can range from bank and financial agreements to corporate matters such as by-laws and charters, to lists of board members and meeting minutes. When the information is in one location, the board is able to review documents, as well as ensure that all members have the final version of the materials shared. It’s an easy place to keep track of board goals, meetings and deadlines.
3. Advanced Meeting Preparation
As a private company, the board of directors isn’t held to the same type of scrutiny as a public company, leaving more time at meetings for discussion and strategic planning. However, once the company starts weighing going public, the nature of board meetings has to change. As Stan Silverman explained in the Philadelphia Business Journal, public company boards have a formal board process to satisfy the “the complex regulatory requirements of a public company,” which include various financial reports for investors.
To run a more complex yet effective board meeting, advance preparation is a must. A well-prepared board member has accessed materials to review ahead of time, discussed specific agenda points with others, and perhaps even had a preliminary discussion on the agenda. In taking care of basic preparation in the weeks leading up to the meeting, the meeting itself can then be used for discussion on important issues. The board portal allows board members to communicate with each other and hash out concerns beforehand—saving the meeting itself for decision-making and using members’ expertise to effectively monitor companies.
4. Sharing High-Level Information
As a company prepares to go public, information regarding critical and sensitive corporate information will be shared. Sharing this information via paper is unsafe — consider the risk of losing a document in shipping, or a board member misplacing a packet.
Even traditional electronic sharing, such as emailing someone or creating PDF files—even if files and messages are password protected—has its drawbacks. Passwords can be compromised and email accounts can be hacked.
Board portals provide a higher level of security than most other information-sharing tools and systems. For instance, all documents loaded into the portal are highly encrypted. Those materials are stored on one network rather than multiple networks with different levels of security protocols. Company staffers also have control over all of the materials within the portal solution, including who has access to different files, whether those files can be printed or whether they can be downloaded to a device so they can be read off-line. The portal is a closed loop system, and this increases the overall security for everyone on your board and every document that is shared or stored.
In the months before going public, companies need to be at the top of their game, making sure that they are able to meet all of the necessary requirements, and that the board that is ready to go. Having the right board portal system and electronic solutions allow companies to streamline the process while adhering to governance best practices.
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