Executive Education

The Alchemy of Any Great Acquisition

Selling your business is a popular goal, and understandably so. It’s an attractive idea, that all those sleepless nights and countless hours of labor will amount to a well-earned payday.

On the other side, if you’re a buyer, your goals are somewhat similar. You’re hopeful that sometime in the future you’ll achieve the same thing, multiplying your investment in a subsequent sale. But that equivalency can often be hard to come by.

Nearly half the time, these deals end with one party feeling dissatisfied, what we call buyer’s remorse. Some frame it as the rightful result of business competition, but the idea that one party must be the “winner” is an idea best left on the playing field. Acquisitions needn’t be so ruthless, especially since there are so many real-life consequences, financial and otherwise, at hand.

There is a better way. There’s a little pinch of alchemy, turning ordinary materials into gold, that can spin most acquisitions into a positive benefit for both parties. When it comes to finding the right partner for your business sale, no matter which side of the equation you fall on, these discussion topics can help you find the right results.

mtm choice, a company that I founded just two years ago is a specialist Brand Activation Network with tech-enabled creativity at the core. We have set out to be excellent at what we do and leaders in how we do it. Right from the outset we have worked to some  essential vectors…and whilst we sometimes stumble, we genuinely aspire every day to keep our balance upon our essential operations vector – and one all important axis:

Our Essential Operational Vector: Understanding  

We acquire expertise while making the best use of the knowledge we already have. We accomplish this by only buying what we understand. Gaining this understanding is the most important work we do.

We go beyond the numbers, the EBITDA, the balance sheet – we want to understand the journey – both the good and the terrible.  It tells us a great deal about the character of the business in both good times and in bad. Having this knowledge is essential to creating transactional alchemy.

A client portfolio is always put out there to impress, but there’s much more information to be considered in an acquisition. More importantly, we want to know why did certain clients stay, so we can nurture those positive aspects of the relationship once we buy the group. Even closer attention must be paid, however, to those that left. Their stories often tell us about crucial faults, about promises broken; these war stories are where the greatest truths often lie. Imperfection is not a sin. Pretending you don’t have any imperfections is.

We are keen to understand the path to growth and to work with our intended partners on how to help them get there–no one buys a business to stand still. But there’s more than just expansion to be considered. We have to ensure the business is built to weather the leaner times, staying sustainable when the going gets tough. Hope for the best, plan for the worst may sound a bit trite, but it makes sense to store grain for the winter, nes pas? 

And then there is that one and all Important Axis: Equality

A living example of mtm choice’s axis can be found in the North of Europe, in a country that may not be known as a cradle of successful companies, but the products of which are familiar to consumers worldwide.

Swedish financial journalist Joakim Malmberg put it this way: “A generous welfare state makes people more comfortable at taking risks.” Rather than kill innovation, a more equal state of being promotes entrepreneurship by ensuring that opening a business doesn’t mean risking your economic life.

Sweden – the land of “simple, smart, and functional” design, is built on a truly radical focus on EGALITARIANISM – a total embrace of thoughtfulness and equality. Swedish society nurtures those in need, and provides a safety net for when struggles are at their worst.

True egalitarianism comes when all parties have equal access. Access to comforts and necessities in everyday life, and access to information in a business deal. The philosophy of true equality may fly in the face of the “winner take all” mindset, but a more even-handed approach has proven results.

This idea has translated to success for numerous Swedish brands, which have found global profit building on this egalitarian foundation. Companies like Volvo, Ikea, AstraZeneca, Skype, Spotify, and many more utilize the Swedish way of doing business and have become major international heavyweights.

We at mtm choice aren’t a sovereign nation, but we set out to create an environment in which acquisitions aren’t a zero-sum game. Egalitarianism here means everything is out on the table, with no secrets or misdirections. I want my counterparts in every deal to know that we see them as equals. It makes for good business.

It doesn’t only make our acquisition deals better, it works closer to home as well. Our office is a place where equality means all ideas can be considered, no matter who submits them. Finding workable solutions to problems is a whole-company goal, and everyone is empowered to help out.

In all, when the vector of understanding meets the axis of equality, great things can happen in acquisitions. The people on the other side of the table aren’t adversaries, they’re partners, and must be treated as such.

When you sell your business, you’re selling something that you’ve taken years to nurture and grow, with lots of love and care. Be sure that you’re selling to something who will do the same thing. If there is a genuine will, there is always a way.

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Alexei Orlov
Alexei Orlov, Founder and Global CEO of mtm choice worldwide, a family of leading specialist brand activation agencies.