I took up running a few years ago. Although I do it to stay healthy, recharge and take a break from work, running has taught me lessons relevant to my job. Just as I learn from the team at KPMG, I learn from other runners, and some of what I've learned applies to any change journey—including an initial public offering (IPO).
Sprint and recover
You can view the IPO process as an interval run. When you start the process, there's an initial sprint to get the draft filings through to regulators. Then, there are recovery periods while waiting for regulatory reviews and comments, and further sprints as comments are received from regulators, investors and other stakeholders or as peers release financials that set a new benchmark for your business.
The sprints of an interval run are intense and sprinting for too long can leave you exhausted and unable to keep training. Similarly, with the IPO process, the challenge is to prepare your team to keep pace leading up to the IPO and then come out of it ready to keep running.
Balance intensity with longevity
Run too hard or too often and you slip in other areas of your life, such as work and family, and risk fatigue, illness and injury. You need to balance the time and energy used for running with the time and energy needed to meet these demands. So, too, with the IPO. The finance team still needs to keep tempo with their day jobs, such as month-end close and potentially expanded responsibilities to be public-company-compliant. If organizations don't address the challenges of this extra work, they risk staff fatigue, loss of personnel and increased financial risk due to compliance quality reduction or weaker oversight.
I've learned that not every run needs to be fast. If you run fast every time, you'll reach race day exhausted. This is also important to keep in mind with your finance team. If you monitor speed alone, you may see your team hitting timelines but exhausted after sprints. If you monitor effort versus speed, you can help your team keep up the IPO pace and keep running.
Monitor and adjust
When you run regularly, you need to monitor your body and make adjustments when necessary if you're to both tackle the stresses of the interval run and continue your program. Maybe you'll need to add more strength work or more long runs to your program, or possibly even new equipment or outside help, such as physiotherapy. Altering your stride, posture, food intake or hydration during a run can help you run more efficiently. You may even need to pull back on your pace to ensure you finish.
As you prepare for the IPO, make changes during the process so it runs more efficiently. Where possible, take immediate actions to manage effort in the short term and bring effort down to a level that can be maintained throughout the IPO. Use regular touchpoints to identify and track your team's pain points as these often cause undue effort. Common pain points include excessive volumes of work, needing multiple rounds of review or comment, identifying issues and adjustments late in the process or close to deadlines, manual processes such as data refreshes, and reconciliations between data sources after each refresh.
To smooth out workloads, look for activities that can be front-loaded or deferred outside the hard runs. Consider bringing in more support to distribute the work and engage technical experts in the early stages of drafting to help anticipate questions and reduce the effort involved in review. If possible, automate reconciliations and data refreshes in the short term with existing systems or using basic financial models.
Harness the value of active rest
Runners know that a lot of training progress is made during active recovery. During the IPO, use recovery periods to get ahead of initiatives that further the "get good" agenda (which I'll expand on in a future post) for long-term transformative change and make improvements in each successive sprint. Debrief the pain points of the last sprint. What were the root causes and how can these be sustainably addressed in the long run? Identify and track any improvement opportunities that you can't implement right away and plan to review and prioritize them when the IPO is complete.
I love running and it gives me a regenerative break from work. But the lessons it teaches about pacing, making the most of rest periods and adjusting both on the fly and for the longer-term and broader program are lessons I find valuable for any organization undertaking an IPO or any change process.
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