For over a year, I was focused on Rubicon Project's IPO. A lot of people have asked me, "What is it like going through the IPO process? What's it like being the CEO of a public company? What is the company like after the IPO?"
An IPO is a big, and important, process--the best way for me to describe it is that it's like planning a wedding. There is a lot of excitement, a ton of preparation and a lot of stress! You start hiring bankers and lawyers, bringing new people on to the team, building out a public company board... It's kind of like selecting all of the vendors for a wedding. With all of the preparation and planning, there is this anticipation building up--you're thinking about the big day, when it's going to be and what the day will be like. And as you approach the big day, you're constantly watching the market to make sure the conditions are 'perfect'--just like the weather for your wedding day.
The whole process is interesting. And you quickly learn that the people you have around you really matter. There's a big difference between doing something once and doing it twice. I had the benefit of taking a company public before, so learned from that experience. I've also been fortunate to be surrounded by people who have also gone through an IPO before. Our President, Greg Raifman founded a company called MediaPlex, which was one of the most successful IPOs in the Bay area of its time, and our COO and CFO, Todd Tappin had also taken a company public as the founding CFO of Overture.
All three of us had the same mindset that we would take the lessons we learned from the first time and apply them to this IPO--everything from how we would approach Wall Street, to managing the roadshow process to keeping the team focused on what really matters--executing on our vision. Similar to a wedding, you often times need to remind yourself of what the "purpose" is--a wedding is a big life-event, not just a one day event. An IPO is a financing event--not just one day--that provides funding and public currency to grow and accelerate a company's vision and plan.
When the IPO finally came, we were confident that we had put a great team in place and we were well prepared. It was an incredible day! Much like a wedding we did all this work and prepared for over a year--and then the big day came and went by SO fast! Anyone who has planned a wedding can relate to this experience. You do all of this planning and preparation, paying attention to every little detail--and then your wedding day comes and goes and it's like, "Whoa! What just happened?" The day is over. Now, you're looking forward to the rest of your life!
I was meeting with Greg and Todd a few weeks after our IPO (we meet every week) and I said, "Our team is clearly excited--they're winning and feeling good--but they don't seem to have that same level of fire. I think they are working hard and focused, but they are not AS fired up as they have been in the past." I asked Greg and Todd, "Why do you think that is? Are we doing something wrong? Did we put too much pressure on them? Did they expect different things from the IPO? Is it the pressure of being a public company? What can we do differently?"
Todd, very matter-of-factly said, "You know, I think there is a little bit of the IPO hangover." As soon as he said "hangover," I laughed and said, "That's EXACTLY what this is." It's like the day after your wedding, or a big night out, where there is all this excitement and you have an incredible time... and then you wake up the next morning and you're tired, hung over and you're just completely and utterly wiped out and all you want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep for a week!
My best advice is to get over the "IPO hangover" as quickly as possible and nurse yourself right back to health. Just as after a wedding, you refocus on your future together... You need the next big thing to look forward to--whatever it is to you--buying a house, starting a family. Whatever that next big "life event" is, companies need the same thing. That's the quickest way to get over the IPO hangover--to get your team re-energized and excited about that next big event! For companies, that could be a big product release, a giant business milestone for the company, a big customer win... I believe winners are motivated by great challenges. Find that next big challenge to get your team focused on. It will reenergize them. That's the best "hair on the dog" for your team (yes, I know it's supposed to be "hair -of- the dog"; I said it the wrong way the day after my wedding, and my wife has made fun of me ever since!)