In the early days of the dot com boom, going public was the gleam in every entrepreneur’s eye. Billions of dollars were made issuing shares of companies like Webvan and It seemed like success was all but inevitable. 

Ten years later, we can finally look back on those days without too much pain anymore, which is partly why momentum has been building once again towards the markets. Last week the law firm Wilmer Hale hosted a panel about the current state of IPOs at their offices in New York City. Managing Directors from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other speakers talked about their experiences in the past couple of years and how they see the future of the markets progressing. For most going public will never be a serious concern, but the advice they gave is useful for the leadership of any company focused on long-term success.


Lesson 1: Have a Good Dance Partner

Managing Director of Morgan Stanley John Tyree stressed that a close partnership between the CEO and CFO is vital to that company’s prosperity. “Investors like to see a CEO who’s either a visionary, has tons of experience, and is often both,” he said, “while they want a CFO who functions like the government of the company.” The balance between the inspiration that the CEO provides with the grounding of a level-headed CFO keeps the company moving but still grounded. Further, seeing the pair work well together and complement each other reassures investors.


Lesson 2: Adding Doesn’t Mean Replacing 

Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Bill Blais made another suggestion that investors tend to reward: supplement, don’t change management. During the panel he said, “A seasoned manager is very different from an entrepreneur.” Tyree agreed: “After 10 years of building a company, you don’t want to hand the keys over.” If management isn’t your strong suit, get someone who’s great at it so you can focus on why you started the company in the first place.


Lesson 3: Find Your Voice 

Towards the end of the evening Blais cautioned the room by saying, “If a tech founder tries to explain his vision to you and he says you just don’t get it, ask him to explain it again. If you still don’t get it after the second time, trust your gut.” Tyree felt similarly, but expressed it another way: “Be proud of your company. Remember, you’re asking investors to be your business partners.” Clearly communicating the faith you keep in yourself and the company you’ve built will resonate not only with potential investors, but with everyone you meet. 

So even when you’re still a ways off from ringing the opening bell, remember these three lessons and you may find yourself hosting earnings calls sooner than you