Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to abandon your fate to anonymous investors when you take your company public. Just ask Michael E. Cope, founder and CEO of Interphase Corp., in Dallas, who has managed to keep pretty good control of his company's destiny by seeking out the kind of investors he wants.
Cope developed his strategy prior to Interphase's initial public offering in early 1984, as he traveled around the country making presentations to prospective investors. Instead of leaving the follow-up to the underwriters, he and his top managers kept track of the participants who asked the best questions, and then met with them afterwards. "We tried to avoid investors whose natural tendency would be to dump the stock when things got rough," says Cope.
So far, the strategy has worked. The company raised $4.5 million from its 600,000-share offering, which it sold to about 350 investors. Most of the big ones held onto their stock during a bad stretch in 1985. Cope, for his part, has kept them well informed about the business. "With a public firm, you won't have total control," he says. "But if you play your cards right, you can have a lot more than you'd expect."