For years, it was predictable ritual when I interviewed privately-held companies. I was obliged, as a reporter, to ask about their revenue and profits. They would either clam up or hedge with vague answers like "we're on track to profitability."

Today,anyone who is actually making money has a heckuva story to tell– and to beat competitors over the head with. I haven't seen anything quite as up-front, though, as a letter (click to enlarge it) from Spectra Logic that arrived in my inbox today. It went out of its way to say it scored record revenues, profitability and improved market share in the quarter ending in September, and that "October and November continue this trend." It also stated boldly "We operate a profitable business with a positive cash flow."  You know times are tough when that's news.

I applaud Spectra Logic for touting the fact it's in good shape while others are struggling. But without the accounting safeguards that (supposedly) come with being a publically-traded company, their claims are just that — claims– that can't be backed up. The letter ends by asking customers who want to know more to contact CEO  and founder Nathan Thompson or CFO Brian Rome. I wonder how much they open the financial kimono, and to which customers? Does a Fortune 50 customer get to audit Spectra Logic's books for an actual check on their financial health,while a mid-size company gets only a sincere promise things are actually OK?

If you have a privately-held client who's actually doing well in the downturn, by all means tell the world, but have guidelines in place for when customers, or reporters, call asking for proof. If different outsiders get different answers, or access to different levels of information, you better be prepared to explain why. This is also one time I'd suggest calling in the lawyers, as even without stockholders there are others (such as employees, resellers, suppliers and customers) who are making financial decisions based on what you say.

Do you have the happy problem of positioning a client that's doing well, or are still stuck handling disasters?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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