First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
John Nesbett: Thank you for asking. I feel fortunate to say that we are all well and staying positive in these uncertain times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded IMS Investor Relations?
John Nesbett: After college, I taught high school history and worked on a sailboat in Maine to live the life of sensation for a bit, and ultimately found myself working part-time at a public relations firm. At the firm, there was a book about public relations with a chapter dedicated to Investor Relations. I found the topic intriguing because it blended two of my interests – communications and investing.
I was intrigued by the concept of helping investors better understand the narrative around the numbers. I quickly transitioned to an investor relations firm and haven’t looked back since.
After 14 years in the industry, I founded IMS Investor Relations to shine a much-needed light on microcap to mid-cap companies, a sector that is often misunderstood, underfollowed, and undervalued by Wall Street. There was a need in the marketplace for a firm that not only offered the services of a large agency in a smaller package but also had the capability to transform a company’s investor base.
How does IMS Investor Relations innovate?
John Nesbett: Just like our clients, we innovate constantly. Wall Street is ever-shifting, and we stay on top of those changes for our clients, so they are not left behind. For example, during my career, I’ve watched so many investors shifting to using index funds. Additionally, the number of dedicated sell-side research firms has systematically declined in recent years, making it more competitive for the smaller companies we represent. If small public companies don’t take destiny into their own hands, they are more likely to be orphaned. Our services are vital.
Technologically, we are always improving our digital capabilities to offer the best services to our clients. While companies are using Zoom and conference calls now more than ever, we were ahead of the curve on that. Many of the investors we communicate with are not located in major metropolitan areas, so face-to-face meetings with investors can be challenging. A cornerstone of our ability to build our network has been leveraging technology to stay connected to those investors across the country. We’ve also developed a proprietary database of smaller investors who actively invest in emerging public companies. These are family offices and small institutions we have relationships with and cannot be accessed with an off the shelf investor database.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
John Nesbett: We took an initial hit to our business. Some of our clients were significantly impacted by Covid-19, especially those in the retail sector. Despite going remote for a few months, we didn’t skip a beat from a customer service standpoint.
We dig deep, stay true to our roots, tap into the same hunger, and “failure is not an option” passion that we used to find the business. Good companies will come out the other side stronger, given the cost reductions and enhanced innovation. Our business is now stronger than it has ever been.
This is an excellent time to be a high-quality, small firm. During tough times, clients want partner-led account teams. I am a glorified account executive, and as much as I love the hunt for new business, I am at my best rolling my sleeves up and solving clients’ problems.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and IMS Investor Relations in the future?
John Nesbett: It is not events that make you stressed; it is people that make you stressed. By reminding myself to keep perspective and understand our clients’ or investors’ urgency, I am able to keep stress at bay. We know what we need to do and stay focused on it.
I do feel stress when I am not creating things from scratch. One of the things that help me is music. I play both piano and guitar and play in a band with lifelong friends. We play around the broader New York area and play regularly at the Red Lion on Bleecker Street. I also clear my mind with exercise and can’t do without my morning runs. I am also blessed with a wonderful family that keeps me grounded and makes me laugh every day. It really is the best medicine.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
John Nesbett: Candidly, I don’t think about competition much. What keeps me up at night is how we can better service our clients. Never rest on your laurels. That is death for a company. I am always asking myself if I were CEO of a public company, what would I need from an investor relations firm? That’s what keeps me energized.
There are a lot of firms that promote false promises and paper pushing in this industry. I love ramping a new client and proving to a management team that there is an investor relations firm out there that can and will solve their needs. If we can continue to do that, we will not only be staying in the game but creating the game.
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