Many companies have a big party after the close of their IPO. The party celebrates the contributions of everyone involved and caps an intense, often stressful, period where the organization transforms itself from a private enterprise into a publicly traded company.
In some ways, it's a goodbye party, too. With the IPO achieved, many of the external advisors that provided daily, on-call support leading up to the offering will be moving on, leaving the adolescent public company to stand on its own.
With the IPO milestone reached, it can feel as though the work is done and things can go back to "normal." But the reality is that becoming a public company drastically changes an organization's ongoing demands such that normal takes on a whole new meaning. In some ways, once the IPO is achieved, the work has only just begun.
The work goes on
There can be some post-party melancholy, too, driven by the realization that, in a bid to be ready for the IPO, many processes and procedures were made "good enough" for the offering date but changes needed to sustainably meet post-offering requirements that may have been put on hold still have to be addressed. Without the ongoing intention and focus required to make long-term and transformative change, these sub-optimal temporary ways of working can end up becoming permanent.
More problematic, the sense of urgency to implement best practices often departs with the external advisors, leaving internal team members either bogged down by existing processes or in need of further training or more tools to empower them to drive further improvements.
The companies that are most successful in smoothing the post-IPO transition are those whose leaders set a plan to maintain momentum before they've even finished cleaning up after the big party.
Those who read my earlier post—"Sprint, rest, repeat"—may have compiled a list of pain points and improvement opportunities that were deprioritized during the IPO sprint. Now is the time to revisit and reprioritize those lists.
Have conversations with your team members early to assess their readiness for meeting near-term public company reporting requirements. Are they ready to handle the first quarterly report? How about the first annual report? Can they support the ongoing needs of any new financing arrangements, equity plans or other forms of compensation that arose as a result of the IPO?
Where there are near-term concerns or gaps, engage the advisors who helped you up to the go-live date. Have them help not only with designing sustainable future state policies, processes and controls that align with your business strategy and your equity story but also with training your team to support the transition.
Plan for the long-term
You'll also want to establish a team that is responsible for implementing longer-term, strategic improvements. Task them with communicating the value of pursuing change, soliciting buy-in from the necessary stakeholders and setting up governance forums to obtain the necessary approvals. Their role will also be to develop a roadmap with plans for implementation, and to prioritize new opportunities as they arise.
Don't forget to involve the team members from the IPO readiness process in the design and implementation of strategic initiatives. We've seen this significantly shorten the ramp-up period to implementing post-IPO improvements. After all, you've already invested in these team members and helped them develop a deep knowledge of your organization and its processes leading up to the IPO. Now it's time to reap the benefits of that investment.
The demands of the IPO process mean there isn't always time to implement long-term transformative changes before you take your company public. Setting a plan to maintain the momentum post-IPO, and bringing your pre-IPO team along for the journey, can help both to ensure a smooth transition to meeting ongoing public company demands and to set the foundation for continued progress beyond the IPO date. So, party on!