As Detroit Manufacturing Systems sets out to make acquisitions, people are top of mind, says then CFO, now EVP of Sales, Purchasing and Strategy Scott Cieslak.
"One of the first things we had to do was look at where there were these various cost categories or areas in the organization that were hidden," Cieslak, speaking at the Detroit Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, says. "A lot of them were going to be around the people management side of things."
That means that culture was the first thing DMS tackled when it gets into an organization, looking to establish how it wants to operate. In the first several months post acquisition, that means a lot of talent management. He says when adding to the team, there's a heavy focus on not just finding people to do the job, but finding people who believe in the value and the vision and the organization.
"Bench strength is key," he says. "We're a large top line, but we're only 300 people large now as a company. So, finding that right talent that believed what we wanted to do was key."
And while it was a priority to scrutinize all lines of the P&L, it's not just an exercise for reducing costs.
"Cost cutting is not going to make as much of an impact as we think," Cieslak says. "It's going to be of creating value out of your P&L, looking at each line and trying to find a way to do it more efficiently and effectively than just do it for less money. Offshoring, outsourcing is not necessarily going to be the case. Finding ways to use bots, finding ways to unleash the value back to the customer, too. Making sure you understand when you come into the deal, what is the customer really looking for?"
Still, as the business searches for organizations to acquire, they're looking closely at the people — the management team, the talent, the knowledge and expertise. And the big question is do they fit culture? Or are they just filling a job and filling a role?
To determine that, the company puts candidates through its internal EQ testing to make sure that they have the same culture and values they have.
"If not, what we'll run into is what we ran into here at DMS was the first three years of a continuous churn in our salary workforce," he says. "We've gotten to the point over the past two years where people, workforce, is definitely stabilized. It did take some time. And it took consistency in our hiring pattern, and a lot longer than we thought it would. So, I would say that, as we're going into looking to new acquisitions, it's going to be the right leadership and management team first to make sure that they are the right fit for who we are. They're not just doing the job."
He says when talking to the existing leadership team in an acquisition target, especially one that's been together for many years, one question he has is are they more of a family?
"And do they see themselves, if the ownership changes, that, even though we might be a great company to work for, we're not that same company they've been working for the past 10 years," he says. "And now you lose trust, and they don't want to work for the new ownership."