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Preparing for IPO as a Chief People Officer

Navigating an IPO is a complex journey, especially for People teams. In this playbook, Clare Hunt (VP People, Alector) shares her learnings from taking a company public - from preparation to post-IPO.

Clare is the VP of People at Alector, a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for the treatment of neurodegeneration diseases. She joined Alector in early 2017, and led them through their IPO in 2019. Alector IPOd at 100 FTEs, which Clare caveats throughout as a difference from her tech counterparts.

Supplementing Clare’s perspective was Maureen Calabrese, a 5x Head of People and current CPO at Sprout Social.  Maureen led Sprout Social through their IPO in 2019 and contributed advice on the IPO process throughout our conversation.

Table of Contents:

  1. What are the top things a CPO can do to successfully lead through an IPO?
  2. What learnings would you take with you if you were to go through an IPO again?
  3. What are the foundational elements you can prepare for well ahead of your IPO?
  4. What are the major line items between filing your S-1 and IPO?
  5. What were some of the other changes to equity?
  6. How do you balance transparency with your legal obligations for confidentiality?
  7. How did you manage employee expectations? Did you do training on sudden wealth?
  8. How do you prepare for attrition post-IPO?
  9. What has changed in the CPO role now that you are public?

Excerpt: Preparing for IPO as a Chief People Officer

1. What are the top things a CPO needs to do to be successful leading their organization through an IPO?

Regardless of how transparent the company has previously been, the IPO pre-work is highly confidential and it cannot spread across the organization. The IPO process is important to everyone at the company, but not everyone can know the details. As such, your company leadership must be prepared for a shift towards less transparency.

A lot of your work as Head of People will be focused on compensation. My advice is to hire a comp consultant early and they’ll be able to guide you through the process. Being aligned with your CEO on the compensation philosophy is also important, and having a compensation consultant early on will help expedite this alignment. Moreover, tap your peers and understand how comparable companies handled the process, as this will also make it easier to align with your CEO on your company’s compensation philosophy.

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