With 2019 just about over, we’re taking a look back at some of what we learned this year. We spoke about the value that can be found when you dig a little deeper into a dealmaking opportunity, the approach you take when money isn’t your primary reason for making a deal and those fortunate scenarios when one great deal leads to another.

Here’s a look at some of what we’ve covered in a busy 2019.

Pedal to the metal

Coming out of the 2008 market crash, Victor Ciardelli saw an opportunity to make deals and grow his business. However, he didn’t have a specific number in mind for how many deals he wanted to do.

“Honestly, we were just keeping our foot on the gas and growing the business,” says the founder of Guaranteed Rate. “We have a great platform, and we thought it would work well for other independent mortgage companies.”

Ciardelli took a few moments last summer to share his perspective on dealmaking and how it’s helped his company continue to grow.

Evaluate every opportunity

Matthew Gold will always consider a deal opportunity at Cars.com, even the ones that seem a bit flawed on the surface.

“We almost always take meetings,” says the $662 million company’s chief strategy officer. “I look forward to being happily surprised on potential acquisitions that we’d initially been skeptical of.”

We spoke with Gold about Cars.com’s M&A strategy, the thought process behind recent transactions and keys to managing through the twists and turns of the dealmaking process.

Find the right fit

Dealmaking is more than just a strategy at Zebra Technologies Corp. It’s a lifeline, says the company’s CFO Olivier Leonetti.

“I don’t want to be dramatic, but I don’t think we’ll be around in five or 10 years if we’re not successful in M&A,” Leonetti says. “I don’t think we would be the company we are today without being successful in past M&A activity.”

Zebra has grown to more than $4 billion in annual revenue through its development of marking, tracking and computer printing technologies that give customers across a wide array of industries a performance edge. Leonetti shared some details about how Zebra evaluates the fit of potential acquisition targets.

Don’t give more than you get

John Dilenschneider wanted to find a firm that could bring expertise to help GovQA capitalize on its leadership position in the growing market of enterprise workflow software. In this scenario, it’s important to be efficient in gathering what you need to make an informed decision.

“You’re talking to all these guys, and they’re all providing information,” he says. “But you’re educating them, and you have to be careful about that because you don’t want to spend all of your time educating private equity guys.”

Dilenschneider explained how he struck the right balance between giving and getting information and landed a deal that gives GovQA a chance to continue expanding.

Connect the dots

Paul Marushka created Sphera with a grand vision in mind, and he quickly learned that dealmaking would play a key role in achieving his ambitious goals.

“We realized we can’t build everything ourselves fast enough to meet the demand in the marketplace,” says Marushka, whose company has spent $100 million on research and development to create cloud-based applications. “So we have been in an active M&A effort to try to fill in the gaps in our portfolios.”

Sphera has made numerous acquisitions in the past two years, growing to about 1,000 employees. In this Dealmakers feature, he shared the story of how one deal led to another pivotal M&A opportunity that could strengthen his business.

Prepare to exit

Shari Forman spends a lot of time working with family-owned businesses in Chicago through her role at PwC, and few of them are in any hurry to step away from the companies that have come to define their lives.

“What we’re seeing within our client base is that there’s almost a reluctance to prepare for that moment,” says Forman, U.S. Private Company Services Tax Leader for the global professional services firm. “It’s almost a sense of denial, in some cases.”

Forman and her colleague Fentress Seagroves spoke about common mistakes to avoid when preparing an exit strategy — and the importance of doing so in the first place. 

Here’s to a great 2019 and an even better year of dealmaking in 2020. Happy New Year!