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Tag: 10K

The “Strangest Biotech Company of All” Issues Their Annual Report as a Comic Book

This seems almost made for me: I’m into comics. I do my own corporate style annual and quarterly reports to track how my finances and goals are going. And, I follow the biopharma industry.

So, when I found out that a biotech company issued its latest annual report in the form of a comic book, I knew I had to blog about it!

The art style is interesting and not all that bad (albeit a little too heavy on the inking in my mind — what do they think this is, a Batman comic?), but the bulk of the comic is told from the first person perspective of Martin Auster, head of business development at the company (that’s Doctor Auster to you, pal!). We get an interesting look at Auster’s life, how he was a medical student who didn’t really want to do a residency, and how and why he joins the company:

And, of course, what annual report wouldn’t be complete without some financial charts – and yes, this particular chart was intended to be read with 3D glasses (which were apparently shipped with paper copies of the report):

Interestingly, the company in question – United Therapeutics — is not a tiny company either: its worth roughly $3 billion (as of when this was written) and is also somewhat renowned for its more unusual practices (meetings have occurred in the virtual world Second Life and employees are all called “Unitherians”) as well as its brilliant and eccentric founder, Dr. Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt is a very accomplished modern-day polymath:

  • She was an early pioneer in communication satellite law
  • She helped launch a number of communication satellite technologies and companies
  • She founded and was CEO of Geostar Corporation, an early GPS satellite company
  • She founded and was CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio
  • She led the International Bar Association’s efforts to draft a Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights
  • She is a pre-eminent proponent for xenotransplantation
  • She is also one of the most vocal advocates of transgenderism and transgender rights, having been born as Martin Rothblatt (Howard Stern even referred to her as the “Martine Luther Queen” of the movement)
  • She is a major proponent of the interesting philosophy that one might achieve technological immortality by digitizing oneself (having created an interesting robot version of her wife, Bina).
  • She started United Therapeutics because her daughter was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, a fatal condition which, at the time of diagnosis, there was no effective treatment for

You got to have a lot of love and respect for a company that not only seems to have delivered an impressive financial outcome ($600 million in sales a year and $3 billion in market cap is not bad!) and can still maintain what looks like a very fun and unique culture (in no small part, I’m sure, because of their CEO).

(all images from United Therapeutics annual report)

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10K for life

image I’m not sure if this is typical for other consultants, but I spend a lot of time reading through corporate annual and quarterly reports (called 10K’s and 10Q’s, respectively, after the SEC form names). These reports give lots of information, including a description of the business (useful for technology and biotech/pharma companies which can be difficult for the layperson to understand), snapshot of performance for the period that is reported, the relevant historical comparisons for current performance (e.g. the year before, the same quarter from the year before, etc.), and a list of risk factors for the business.

These reports are produced by public companies (and by some private companies, no doubt) for the benefit of investors who no doubt want to know exactly what they are investing in. But, I do also believe that the very process of making these reports is good for management as it forces them to think very hard about their strategy, their competitive environment, and their ability to execute.

This is why, despite scoffing when I first heard about a consultant at my firm who compiles an annual report for himself (complete with a letter to the shareholder — himself), I have recently started compiling these reports. Yes, I know this is incredibly nerdy, but hear me out. Four reasons why everyone should think about making personal annual and quarterly financial reports:

  1. It forces you to track your finances regularly. The practice of having to make annual or quarterly or semiannual reports is impossible unless there is some effort made to regularly check your finances. This is good as it alerts you to irregularities (e.g. credit card fraud) and helps to make sure that you are sticking to your financial goals (e.g. save 10% of my income every month).
  2. It lets you quickly see mistakes in your judgement. Hindsight is 20/20, but only if you look. By thinking about your past year, or quarter, or whatever period you decide to make these reports on, you are forced to think about what you could have done better. Only by routinely thinking about and being honest with yourself can you make better decisions in the future.
  3. Have an idea of where your finances are going. This has been very helpful for me as I plan out big purchases (e.g. vacations, electronics, etc.) and think about how much of my savings to put into investments month-after-month.
  4. It helps you plan for the future. This, in my mind, is the best and most important reason to do these financial reports. I made one for the 6 months since I graduated from college, and by tallying up my purchases and my income and my investments, I found that I was better off than I had thought I was. As a result, I am planning to increase the amount of money I invest in equities for this coming year. I also looked at my purchases and realized that, by making a few changes in what I buy for lunch, I could easily cut down my expenses by several percentage points.

It’s not necessary to copy the form that corporate annual reports come in, and it’s not necessary to do monthly reports or to make them especially pretty. What is important is to pick a schedule which sounds reasonable (I suggest every 3 months as a good balance between having to do it too often, and having to do it not often enough) and to pick a form which is reasonably easy to do but still forces you to write down your past track record and future plans (could even be scribbles on a notepad if that works for you).

Or if you’re more artistically inclined, you can do what Podravka, a Croatian food company, does which is make an annual report that is only readable after you bake it (hat tip: Eric).

But that’s just for extra credit…

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