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The general counsel’s guide: how your startup succeeds with the annual general meeting

For many companies in Sweden, a busy AGM season is about to begin.

And for many startups, it can be tricky to know how best to conduct the AGM so that shareholders find it relevant, professional and relationship-building.

That’s why Sofia Tångelin, general counsel at company builders Hidden Dreams, has put together three success factors for what you should consider if you run a startup to succeed.

In the first three quarters of last year, a whopping 60,369 companies were started in Sweden1. And for many start-ups, with more than one owner, it’s time to organise an annual general meeting for the first time. For limited companies, this is compulsory and takes place once a year. The AGM is thus one of the most important meetings of the year, in both small and large companies, as it is an opportunity for the owners and the company’s management and board to get together, sum up the year that has passed, vote on important issues and set the right expectations for the year ahead.

– A well-executed AGM is an investment in your company’s public reputation. If you run a startup, you can excel by having a basic understanding of what the purpose of the occasion is. The AGM is a platform to build and strengthen the relationship between your company and those who have invested in it. If done correctly, the AGM will end with you having investors who are both impressed and have continued confidence in the company’s future. Now, for two years, due to the pandemic, these occasions have had to be adjusted based on restrictions, but ahead of this year’s AGMs, there are opportunities to finally meet physically again, says Sofia Tångelin, General Counsel at Hidden Dreams.

The General Counsel’s three steps for a successful AGM

Sofia Tångelin

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Before the AGM, it is important that you prepare yourself and activate other people in your company in time who need to give you the right information. Plan the audit with the auditor (if you have one), set a clear plan for the completion of the financial statements and audit report, prepare the annual report and set a date for the AGM. And remember to include the board in the discussions! Think about your needs for the coming year.

What do you need to decide at the AGM to enable growth? Perhaps a new incentive scheme? What evidence do you need to develop to make this possible? Once the discussion work is done and you have a plan of what you want to highlight at the AGM, it’s time to book the venue, send out a notice of meeting, finalise a CEO speech and chairman’s statement and prepare other presentation materials.

2. Keep the meeting professional and efficient

Now the meeting is here, you want to have key people in place to welcome shareholders. Start by checking the attendance and eligibility of participants, then revise the voting list* accordingly. The share register will be available throughout the meeting and the meeting will otherwise be conducted according to the chairman’s script.

Often the chairman of the board chairs the meeting, but it is also possible to use the services of an external lawyer, for example. To enhance the meeting and make it extra relationship-building, you can combine the formal session with a more convivial “hang-out”. For example, by having a mingle with refreshments afterwards. A good relationship with your investors makes the company’s growth work both easier and more enjoyable.

3. Execute and evaluate

The meeting is over – well done! Now it’s time for the minutes of the meeting to be finalised with the adjuster and sent for final signature. You should also submit the company’s annual report to the Companies Registration Office and any notifications of changes as a result of the decisions taken at the AGM.

Then it’s time to reflect and evaluate. What went well and what went less well? Can we optimise any process and make it easier for next year? Taking the time to stop and evaluate will allow your AGMs to grow in quality year on year while allowing you to spend less time on the work around by creating more scalable work processes.

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