This article is authored by MOI Global instructor Phil Ordway, Managing Principal of Anabatic Investment Partners, based in Chicago.

Investors place a lot of emphasis on capital allocation when considering businesses as potential investments, and rightfully so — over multi-year periods there are few things more important to a company success. So why do companies pay so little attention to it?

Is it because of managerial inexperience? Most CEOs get the top job because of operational excellence or other skills that have nothing to do with allocating capital. At least in the first few years of such cases it’s not even fair to expect capital allocation success from new CEOs.

But what about the board? Isn’t the board supposed to choose and oversee the executives? Yes, but most boards are similarly inexperienced when it comes to capital allocation.

So what about shareholders? They supposedly own the company; can they do something constructive in this regard?

Whatever the reason, I will argue that there are mutually beneficial solutions.

  • Company boards could create a standing capital allocation committee to make ongoing assessments of investment opportunities and the effectiveness of prior decisions.
  • Company boards could incorporate shareholder representation in the form of one or more rational but patient, long-term shareholders.
  • Management teams could be more intentional and thoughtful in their investor relations efforts. How, when, and why companies communicate with their shareholders is important, and a good base of aligned, like-minded shareholders can be a significant asset over time.

We’ll look at several examples of companies who “do it right” when allocating capital and interacting with their investors. A smart capital allocation framework, communicated through a thoughtful investor relations function, can attract patient, long-term, rational shareholders that will be an asset to the company. It is possible to create a positive feedback loop in this regard, but precious few companies even bother to try. Studying the companies who get it right should yield a fruitful list of potential investment ideas.

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