Saturday, February 27

Companies like Square and T-Mobile look to shake up normally boring earnings reports

Gone are the days of boring earnings reports — at least for some companies.

Square, T-Mobile, Adidas and others have been adapting to a more Main-Street-friendly version of these typically dry, Wall Street-centric quarterly events.

“It’s a sign of the times — everyone now is focused on presentation. It all comes from that Steve Jobs school of thought on presentation and style,” said Nomura Instinet analyst Dan Dolev, who covers Square.

For those who have never read an earnings report, it’s typically a black and white document filled with numbers describing the company’s financial performance, and some include projections for the year ahead. It looks like something you might receive from a bank, with zero frills.

But in the second quarter last year, Square turned this once bland document into one that looks more like a magazine spread. Square’s redesigned report weaves numbers and bright-colored text together with full-page professional photos, including sections devoted to biographies of merchants who use Square’s payments technology.

The new look was largely the result recruiting from the publishing industry. Square hired Chelsea Lee, a designer from Conde Nast and GQ, for the overhaul. Her job was to take complicated jargon — like “adjusted revenue” and “EBITDA” — and translate it visually so that the average American could make sense of it.

Then there are the quarterly earnings conference calls. Typically, members of the media and ordinary investors are not allowed access to the question queue during these calls. But some shopkeepers who use Square’s payment system for their small businesses get the opportunity to lob questions at CEO Jack Dorsey.

“Our customers are at the center of everything we do at Square, even earnings,” Dorsey, who also runs Twitter, told CNBC in an email. “We’re in the business of solving their problems, so we want to hear from them directly and make sure our shareholders do too.”

Pedro Dungo, a San Francisco-based professional bike-fitter and owner of “Fitted by Pedro,” was featured in Square’s first-quarter report. He appears in a photo spread ahead of the financial statements — leaning against his bike and smiling in a blue shirt polo shirt that shows off his full arm tattoo sleeve. On an earnings call last year, he asked Dorsey a question directly about collaborating with commercial properties to create space for Square sellers to have more pop-up shops in the Bay Area.

“It was intriguing, I’m really not a stock guy,” Dungo told CNBC. “I was really asking Jack, from a small business perspective, about how we can see small businesses reach the next level.”


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