Pre-planned M&A activity for ASW Global was somewhat disrupted by the pandemic, but CEO André Thornton understands that this is a great time for his company to be on the lookout for acquisition opportunities.
“We have been excited about what we see out there,” Thornton said at the Cleveland Smart Business Dealmakers Conference this past year. “We’re cautious, but optimistically cautious.”
He said there are two ways the company looks at its growth strategy. One of them hinges on the question of whether the company is looking to grow or add services that it currently doesn’t have, the other is whether the company is looking to add to its current service offerings and grow those lines of business.
“Those two areas we like to think are sweet spots,” he says.
Thornton bought his company in 2007, during the Great Recession. It was a time of great economic challenges, which differs from the challenges of today.
“It was an economic disaster,” he said of the recession. “Banks were not your friends at that point as much as they might be today. We look at this more as a natural disaster that’s taking place right now.”
The markets, he said, have responded well during the pandemic, and there’s still a great deal of optimism because there’s money out there.
“There’s money that people are holding on to, there’s money still in the economy, unlike 2008, ’09 and ’10, which were catastrophic in terms of the economic devastation,” he said.
Back then, Thornton said he tried to diversify the company and find other ways to insulate it from disruption. For example, he implemented virtual management — the company’s CFO is virtually located in Atlanta, Georgia, for example.
“So we have been used to working this way for quite a while,” he said. “It really did help us as we went into the difficulties that this pandemic has brought upon us. The only difference today as opposed to then is that about 20 percent of our total personnel is working away from our location.”
The difficulty accessing capital created problems outside ASW that led to challenges inside ASW. For example, some ASW customers struggled because of the economic challenges and led to ASW losing some business.
“It really caused us to focus on how we diversify our business and what type of business we wanted to be in that would give us the ability to survive during difficult times,” he said.
Thornton talked about the challenges ASW faces, as well as how lessons from navigating past challenges have helped the company overcome challenges today. Check out the full conversation in the video above.