In today's tough business environment, firms have to get creative when finding ways to boost value for their shareholders. Sales growth is one of the easier and most straightforward ways to grow value, but this growth has become extremely difficult for most industries these days. Below are five suggestions for boosting value until the top-line climate improves.
Replace the Leadership
The impact of a great leader can be paramount. Simply returning a former CEO to the leadership role is perhaps the best example. Steve Jobs led one of the more impressive corporate turnarounds in history when he returned to Apple and started a string of revolutionary products that started with the iPod and progressed to the more recent iPad tablet. The same can be said for Howard Schultz, when he returned to Starbucks to lead it out of the Great Recession of 2008. Activist investors, including those circling Yahoo! and Canadian railway firm Canadian Pacific, are out to affect change by replacing the current CEO with potentially stronger leaders.
The second quarter earnings season has been marked by firms that have missed sales estimates. Profits are holding up well though, which has been attributed to cost-cutting moves in the face of a difficult sales environment. This was actually a strategy employed by Schultz when he returned to Starbucks. He quickly sought out to close underperforming domestic stores and other international locations where growth had become sloppy or store economics no longer made sense. Starbucks has recently undertaken a fresh initiative to improve its global store balance. With any difficulty in boosting the top line, a strategy to cut overhead can be one of the more straightforward strategies, provided the management team does not also start cutting muscle, instead of just the fat in an organization.
Corporate interest rates are hovering around all-time lows. The current rate for a corporate bond with a 10-year maturity is around 2.5%, and giant corporations have been able to issue bonds below 2%, which is an all-time low. Debt has to eventually be repaid, however, and maturity could hit during an economic downturn when sales are down and the ability to issue new debt to replace the old issues becomes nearly impossible. This occurred back in 2008 and European firms, especially those in the financial services industry, are currently finding it difficult to raise debt. Less debt allows a firm the opportunity to better control its destiny and this can really increase in value during economic downturns.
Eliminate Underperforming Businesses
The success of technology firm International Business Machines in recent years has been due primarily to focusing on business units with the best profit and growth potential. This shift started nearly a decade ago and included the decision to jettison much of the former hardware operations. For instance, back in late 2005, IBM sold its personal computer division to Chinese computer maker Lenovo. Since then, it has chosen to focus on software and services, both of which carry much higher profit margins. Sales growth has been slower recently, but profit growth has been stellar and steadily advancing in the double digits over the past few years.
Adding more youthful experience can help bring fresh energy and ideas into an organization. This strategy is currently in the works at Yahoo!. Marissa Mayer is only 37 years old, but was a high-level executive at rival Google. She is said to have helped Google develop scale during its meteoric rise from its founding in 1998 to a company with a current market capitalization of more than $200 billion. Mayer has been described as having vision in the areas of product development and the technical know-how to ensure their success. She could help stem Yahoo's steady decline that occurred with an older, entrenched management team.
The Bottom Line
New product introductions and related ways to improve a firm's competitive position are also key ways to boost firm value, but tend to take a long time to implement. The impact a new leader makes can also take several years; however, other strategies, including reducing debt and costs, can be implemented within a quarter or two. Overall, there are a number of strategies to boost firm value that can end up benefiting owners and related shareholders immensely, over time.