After raising money from outside investors, lots of companies are so guarded about their businesses, it's no wonder their investors begin to lose interest. That doesn't seem to be much of an issue for Tampa-based Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology, which has done four financings since 1988.
Granted, Seahawk's business (recovering shipwrecks and sunken treasures, using robots and remote-controlled vehicles) is a bit more captivating than most. Even so, the company goes to extraordinary lengths to keep public shareholders and limited partners informed. Here are the main ingredients of its investor-relations program:
Newsletters. Four to six times a year Seahawk sends out a four-page newsletter providing information on the company's activities. Notably absent from the content is news about earnings (which have yet to materialize for the less-than-$1-million company); financial information is disseminated separately. "Investors want to know what we're doing and what we're thinking about," says cofounder Greg Stemm.
Videotapes. Seahawk started distributing collected video clips of coverage from TV. It recently produced its own informational video, which it sells to investors at cost, $4.95.
Tours and open houses. In its offices, the company maintains exhibits that feature artifacts Seahawk vessels have recovered. Investors are encouraged to visit, and they can arrange to go on board when the ships are in port.
Weekly phone updates. Every week the company does a recorded bulletin. By calling a special phone number, investors can hear updates on search locations, weather impact, and so on.
Fax line. For the past year Seahawk has made a wide range of company information -- everything from press releases to 10-K reports -- available by fax. Investors can request a directory of available items by entering their fax number into a touch-tone phone; specific documents can be ordered by touch tone, as well.
Some managers might think Seahawk's communication goes too far, but Stemm thinks the company comes out leagues ahead. "For one thing, our shareholders are extremely loyal," he says, which certainly doesn't hurt whenever the company needs money. What's more, some enthusiastic investors have come to work for Seahawk as employees.
-- Bruce G. Posner