So, you are looking to grow by acquisition.
Your un-wax filled ears have heard the siren’s song of acquiring new revenue and customers without all the “hard work” of organic growth.
You already know that nothing in business is easy, but be prepared for these 7 challenges when you decide to move forward with an acquisition strategy:
1. Are you battle tested? Odysseus spent 10 years fighting the Trojans before he began making his way home. What have you done to toughen up and get ready for battle? This is not like the business cases your reviewed when getting your MBA; this is the real word. You need to have a tough skin and agile reflexes (from a business sense) to make any deal work. Be introspective and decide if you really have all it takes to begin your journey. If not, the get some education, gain some experience, reach out to others in your network who have completed acquisitions. Build up your business muscles. Overall, do not go unprepared into this fight, you need to be at your best and ready to take on all of the financial and leadership challenges that lie before you.
2. Do you have a purpose? A great acquisition is not going to happen just because you wish it to be, you need to have direction and a mission. If you are looking for something to just happen then you may as well sit down with the lotus eaters now and just dream your life away. Things are not easy and will not just fall in your lap. You need to set a course to get to where you are going. Without a plan for you will simply never arrive. Have a vision of your end state and keep driving forward. Be relentless in what you do. It took Odysseus 20 years to get home, but he always knew where he wanted to go.
3. Are you adaptable? Are you quick witted and able to change direction or are you laser focused and not able to see what else surrounds you. The Cyclops learned the hard way that things are not always what they seem. You can’t be solely focused on one thing or you will miss what the other ancillary information is telling you. Frankly the Cyclops had an excuse in having only one eye, but there is generally no excuse in focusing on one tree and ignoring the rest of the forest. Also, Odysseus’s encounter with the Cyclops teaches us not to be boastful about our deeds, if Odysseus had controlled his ego and not told the Cyclops it was he who blinded him, then he likely would have made it home without further incident. When you are acquiring a new company don’t tell everyone how great you are, prove it. Show your worth to others (including potential new employees) on a daily basis.
4. Do you have a team? Odysseus wouldn’t have made it home without help from others, and at the end of the day he need good help, not just anyone. He started off with 12 ships but early on was down to just one as his crew on the other 11 perished when they failed to follow orders and let the air out of Odysseus’s bag of wind. You need people you can trust to make the right decisions when faced with a dilemma. You need experienced lawyers, accountants, IT, operations, sales and marketing professionals who have all faced challenges in the past and performed admirably. There truly is substitute for experience when it comes to putting an acquisition together and bringing it to completion.
5. Do you have deal fever? Don’t fall in love with a deal. Remember the reasons, financial and otherwise, that led you to wanting to make the acquisition. Have a set price and fixed deal points that you view as non-negotiable (or nearly so). I have seen countless occasions where a purchaser becomes so enamored with a transaction that they ignore all reason and give in on issues that cost them any realistic chance of profitability down the road. To put it in Odysseus’s terms they fall under the spell of Circe, and half their men are turned into pigs.
6. Can you handle the Due Diligence? There are danger lying in wait, search and identify them and find a way to navigate around them. Investigate tax consequences and corporate governance issues or they may become, the six headed Scylla. Look at operations and the IP portfolio in detail as you may have inventory problems or a ton of open source software that leads you into the whirlpool of Charybis. Identify the primary risks in your own business model and look at how the target company has handled each and every one. When you find some warts (and you likely will) have a plan of action to excise them before or soon after closing.
7. Can you integrate / assimilate? Culture is an often overlooked but very important element in any integration plan post acquisition. Your own company may be so distant from the target that is will take a proverbial seven years with Calypso for you to get everyone to work together. Also, you don’t want to be so changed afterwards as only your dog Argos know you when you finally return home. Go with what works so you can destroy any remaining threats even after you make it home, there are always other suitors around who want to claim what you have fought so hard to obtain.
If there are any closing lessons to be found in the Odyssey it might be that you can achieve happiness, but be ready for the struggle it takes to get there.
I wish you all the best of luck in finding your own Penelope.