Dentzman Connects Investors

August 21, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Bob Dentzman took a background in finance and parlayed it into a storytelling venture. It happened when he took his head for corporate finance and investor relations and put it together with Flip Mulliner’s head for visual communications.

Dentzman, principal and co-founder of PDBconnect, remembers it this way: “It was literally like the two guys in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial. He’s walking down the street with the peanut butter and I’m walking down the street with chocolate, and we come around a corner and run into each other.”

Dentzman and Mulliner started PDBconnect in 2004. The company produces professional senior management presentations that are designed to give public companies more exposure among existing and potential investors.

A “virtual management presentation,” or VMP as they call it, is typically a 30-minute video presentation that covers all the content of a company’s standard analyst presentation. It’s posted on the company’s Web site, and the virtual format allows viewers to click around as they please through different sections of the presentation. In the presentation, officers of the company talk directly to existing and potential investors about the company’s business model, its background, products, markets and financial results.

“It’s hard to reach a broad audience of retail investors cost-effectively and in a way you can communicate with them on an equal basis,” Dentzman said. “Now we’re able to give them the same thing the institutional investor gets.”

PDBconnect crafts the client’s story and writes the script, and PostWorks, a visual communications company owned by Mulliner, produces the virtual presentation.

“Bob has an ability to ingest a company; he will go and sort of take the mindset of that company and chew it up, digest it, and so he’s able to talk to the CEO in a way the CEO understands,” Mulliner said. “The guards come down, and he and the CEO are like kindred spirits.”

Dentzman’s background is in finance. He worked for a while in banking at National City Bank’s predecessor in Kalamazoo. He worked for Herman Miller Inc. for more than 24 years in the areas of investor relations, treasury and corporate finance. In his last position there, he served as corporate treasurer and vice president of investor relations and was responsible for a variety of things, including world cash management, capital structure management, foreign exchange risk management, shareholder services, pension asset management, and the administration of several executive benefits plans.

Prior to his career at Herman Miller, Dentzman’s first experience with investor communications outreach was a virtual presentation for Bloomberg. He met Mulliner through a mutual acquaintance. Dentzman had investor relations and finance know-how expertise, and Mulliner had visual communications expertise. They blended their talents and came up with the idea of virtual management presentations. The technology allowed them to provide a company’s management presentation to a broad range of investors to get them up to speed with the basic metrics of the company, and at the same time give them some insight as to the individuals who were running the company, Dentzman explained.

“It’s imperative for investors to meet the CEO, the CFO and the president, because these are the guys who are really making the decisions that will ultimately affect the destiny of the company,” he added.

But would the concept fly? Fortunately, during his career with Herman Miller, Dentzman had developed strong relationships on Wall Street and in the general investment community, so he and Mulliner spent four months flying to New York, floating the idea among investment folks and fund managers at institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Standard and Poor.

“It really impressed me because we went to Wall Street and everybody knew Bob,” Mulliner said.

Everybody they talked to wanted to see the finished product. Their first VMP was for Spartan Motors, a Charlotte-based manufacturer of custom motor home and fire truck chassis and emergency rescue vehicles.

“When management viewed it, they said, ‘Wow. This is really great. We like the way you’re thinking ahead,’” Dentzman recalled. “Spartan Motors found the VMP to be a multi-purpose asset that their sales people and human resources people liked, too.”

Spartan’s presentation went online in November 2004 and had 10,000 viewer hits in the first eight months, each averaging 15 to 18 minutes. Dentzman and Mulliner used Spartan’s VMP to sell the concept to Mercantile Bank of Michigan, which launched a virtual presentation on its Web site last September.

As Dentzman sees it, a VMP is a cost-effective way for companies that have very little research coverage to communicate their investment story to the investment community. He and Mulliner have marketed the VMP concept to BetterInvesting, a group of investment clubs formerly known as NAIC. Both the Spartan Motors and Mercantile Bank presentations are posted on BetterInvesting’s Web site, giving them exposure to 35,000 investment club leaders and 161,000 retail investor members who control $100 billion in investment assets. Mercantile’s VMP has also been up on the Nasdaq institutional investor center Web site since early May.

“The comment we heard from Nasdaq was: ‘We would have expected this product to come from a loft out of SoHo, not from West Michigan,” Dentzman commented. “We take some delight in knowing that two knuckleheads from West Michigan had their product viewed very closely by the CEO of Nasdaq. That was somewhat intoxicating.”

Several other West Michigan companies have indicated an interest in what PDBconnect has to offer. Meanwhile, the company is building on its relationship with BetterInvesting. PDB is now going to pilot pay-for-view presentations for BetterInvesting that capture the organization’s educational conferences for investors.

PDBconnect is still in the development stage, Dentzman pointed out.

“We just need to start getting a little bit of traction from the business and then get focused,” he said. “We’re in dialogue with a couple of other businesses right now about partnering with them to broaden our distribution capabilities, our sales and marketing capabilities and so forth.”    

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