Corporate Eye

Whole Investor Relations – Allowing Your Company’s Culture to Show

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the Austin chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute about the intersection between academic theory as taught in business school and the real life practice of investor relations.

It is perhaps my favorite topic to speak about. I am fully convinced that there are quite a number of disciplines – finance, capital markets, marketing and communications that get taught in a business school, but are often not well understood in an investor relations context.

Prior to my talk I had the opportunity to chat with the investor relations officer for Whole Foods, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

When I returned home, as I often do when I meet a company representative, I took the opportunity to check out the Whole Foods investor relations site. I must say that I was impressed by what I saw.

There are a number of things that a company investor relations site is supposed to do. First, of course, it must convey the required information to investors. Most companies do this, with varying degrees of success. That success is mostly predicated upon how clear and compelling the data is and how well organized the site is. I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy writing about how to do this effectively on this site.

Another thing that sites can, but rarely, do, is to give the reader a sense of what underpins the company; the corporate sense of identity or culture that gets a diverse set of individuals to work towards a common goal. This requires that the company go beyond the standard disclosure requirements and talk about itself in a way that describes how they think about their business in more than financial terms. This is where the Whole Foods site stands out.

Set forth below is a screen shot of Whole Foods main investor relations page. There are a number of things on the page that I think are well done, such as a link to Conference Call Scripts, a section on Beyond the Numbers, a link to Interactive Data and links to Industry Resources. However, what I found compelling about the page is that it leads with a link to the company mission page and at the bottom of the page has links to Product Quality Standards, a number of blogs and values statements. After reading the page and following links of interest, one clearly has an understanding of the culture that drives Whole Foods and insights into how they do business. More companies should be as forthcoming.

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John Palizza

John recently retired as a Lecturer in Management at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, where he taught investor relations. Prior to that, John was in charge of investor relations for Sysco Corporation and Walgreen Co. He holds a MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago. You can learn more about John’s thinking about investor relations at his blog, Investor Relations Musings.