Five Years As a Public Company

My successor CEO Burton Goldfield emailed our full board Wednesday morning marking March 27 as TriNet’s 5th anniversary as a public company.

This prompted me to relive some moments with Krista from that special day, along with reflecting on the business and personal sides of how the public company stage of TriNet’s journey continues to evolve my outlook today.

Business Perspective

There are only about 4000 public companies meeting the listing requirements to trade on NASDAQ and NYSE. Since that number has been roughly flat notwithstanding about 900 IPOs over the last five years, it speaks to the tremendous difficulty in remaining an independent public company even after clearing the high hurdle to just IPO.

Observations in my one year IPO anniversary post Embracing Public Company Readiness in Scaling a Private Company still ring true.

Being accountable to a budget, holding executives to the same accountability as the overall company and driving transparency throughout the organization are absolutely critical for public companies to survive intense scrutiny that comes with everyone viewing daily fluctuations in your share price. Missing targets investors are expecting you to achieve  comes with immediate and hard hitting consequences rolling right up to the CEO, management team and board.

But now with a five year look back, I would add a couple nuances that are more subtle:

1. Accountability/transparency + High Volume Growth = Operating Complexity. Today’s IPO and public company requirements already have a huge complexity price tag just with to comply with Sarbanes Oxley, auditable internal controls, mandatory quarterly filings and managing institutional shareholder relationships to name just a few.

But since public investors demand steady growth well beyond an already large scale just to IPO, it is execution of the growth agenda now coupled with consumptive public company requirements that dramatically increase complexity of operating the business in a way that as a private company we couldn’t fully appreciate.  

2. Ever growing operating complexity drives new leadership demands. Ten years ago I might have said that if we had several changes in key members of the executive team perhaps we weren’t making the right hire or promotion decisions.

Now my view has changed to say that with the operating complexity that comes from being a growing public company, dealing with inevitable disruption that comes with executive transition can be a necessary price for having the right people in the right seats who are in sync with the higher public company bar for a more advanced growth stage.

Personal Perspective

This five year look back also helps me grasp how difficult I would have struggled in navigating those same business challenges at this growth stage. It is with respect and admiration that I can look to Burton’s guiding TriNet’s success while staying true to the company’s mission and core values.

Continuing as a member of the Board helps me grow personally. Among other things, many of the public company lessons are an important part of the lens I use in interacting with earlier stage entrepreneurs that I might mentor or invest in.

The financial implications of TriNet’s continuing growth put my family’s independence on a trajectory I certainly never imagined when we started the company 30 years ago.

And after 20 years of explaining what TriNet does to almost every business person I met, it’s equally gratifying to see how strong our brand has become throughout the U.S. along with awareness that what we do affects quality of work life that has touched (my estimate) of a million or more people since we first began.

I am more than a little lucky to have had the help of so many terrific people who’ve contributed to TriNet’s success.  How others supported me has in turn been a motivator in making decisions now on how I allocate resources and time helping others achieve their potential, particularly entrepreneurs who create jobs that foster fulfilling lives in their own communities.

Building scalable and lasting impact through investing, philanthropy and non-profits I help launch are opportunities I aim to be pursuing for as long as I am able.

For now, I’m one of many that can bask in the glow of what these first five years as a public company has achieved. I’m optimistic about the unknown challenges and opportunities still around the corner as the reward continues to be in the journey itself.


Related post:

Startup to IPO: An Entrepreneur’s Reflections


One Response to “Five Years As a Public Company”

  1. Congratulations!!
    What I like about Trinet is it’s ability to weather off the threat from Zenefits/Gusto and continue to grow.


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