By Gavin Littlejohn, CEO, The One Place Capital

I'm not sure if taking on external private investors is quite the same as getting married, but they have often been compared and found to have some common characteristics.

If you invite external investors to become co-owners of your company, both parties are taking on a deep commitment to each other. Directors have a duty to consider the interests of all shareholders. Owners of companies ultimately have rights to decide who is running it.

Before you reach a monthly breakeven position, it is shareholders that prevent a company from going bust by nurturing the company with their capital. High Net Worth individuals often invest in early stage 'high growth' businesses as part of an investment mixture that will be weighted heavily in more mundane asset classes. Their early stage investment selections are a higher risk bet and can be a source of interest and enjoyment, provided that the Board engages them fully in the unfolding story.

I guess that is the key; communication leads to better engagement. From the shareholders side, communication leads to more excitement, fewer unwelcome surprises, and insights with which to help make appropriate introductions. It is also an opportunity for experienced shareholders to feed in advice and suggestions.

From the Board's side, the communication leads to stronger support, more relevant introductions, more helpful advice and a common understanding of strategic direction. It is also difficult to represent shareholders interests if you don't know what is important to them. Failure to engage and communicate leads to disharmony. Of course, ultimately the Board may need access to further shareholder capital.

If writing to shareholders, they don't want an essay or just tables of numbers; they really want the narrative, the story behind the headlines that they can enjoy. They also like to see press coverage. A monthly 'one pager' newsletter or a regular phone round is rarely a wasted effort.

I have lost count of the times when a shareholder has come up with an idea or an introduction that has added real value. There is a fair chance they have invested because they have some knowledge of part of your sector.

So it is not quite a marriage, but it certainly has the like benefits of regular two way communication.


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