With 2019 just about over, we’re taking a look back at some of what we learned this year. We’ve talked to dealmakers about how to use a transaction to create personal wealth, preserving a strong relationship while integrating companies, when and when not to use professional advisers, how negotiations differ based on the type of buyer and just how helpful first-class passengers can be in a PR crisis.
Here’s a glimpse of some of what we’ve covered in a busy 2019.
Get your head about yourself
After Tom Bonney sold Polaris Consulting & Information Technologies, he used the lessons he learned from the first sale to both structure the second business and have a better sale process the second time around.
“Emotionally, I was more prepared this time around,” Bonney said. “And I was more mature. I was 35 when I sold the first one, and I was 52 when I sold the second. I just was at a different point in life, too.”
Bonney offered some advice to first-time sellers in one of our most popular articles of the year.
A lesson in preparation
Serial entrepreneur Dan Pries has also sold a few companies. What he’s picked up from the experience is the difference in the approach to diligence and negotiations between a financial and a strategic buyer.
“It's more quantitative and objective from the point of view of financial buyers,” Pries said. “They want to know if you’re going to generate the return they need or not, given the purchase price. But with the strategic, it's like, ‘Do you have these assets? Do they work? What's actually under the hood?’ And if it's not there by the time of diligence, you're not going to be able to get it there.”
Now that Pries knows the difference, he’s prepared, when the next opportunity arises, to better cater to each.
Draw your own conclusions
Thaddeus Bartkowski initially tried selling some assets of his company Catalyst Outdoor Advertising with the help of professionals. That, it turned out, was the wrong approach. After the false step, Bartkowski took matters into his own hands.
“I went directly to the right people, CEO-level and equivalent, at the organizations that I thought were potential buyers and took the time to create relationships with them personally,” he said.
Bartkowski explained how taking matters into your own hands can sometimes be the better approach.
Together ever after
When a change of position put Joseph D. Culley Jr. in charge of acquiring businesses and integrating them, it meant that when a deal was done, he was on the clock.
“The returns of these transactions look fantastic if all of the key production stays beyond the mandatory retention periods,” Culley said. “But they quickly go negative if everybody walks after two, three, four years. So we talk a lot about making sure we are winning on culture during that time.”
Culley gave his take on post-deal integration, which he said is a essentially a race against the clock.
The personal plan
After Ted Lentz acquiring Lentz Milling, the generations-old family company, via a leveraged buyout from his father and uncle in 2005, he made another purchase — a book on how to sell a business.
“I went into this, although it was a family-owned business, not with necessarily a romantic notion that I was going to perpetuate this thing on for the next 30 or 40 years and that my four kids would carry it on for another 30 or 40 years after that,” Lentz said. “I viewed it as an investment, and ultimately, probably one that I would exit.”
Lentz laid out the meticulous strategy he concocted to set the business up for a transaction.
Timing the tell
Joy Taylor worked with outside professionals for five years preparing to sell her management consulting firm, TayganPoint. But when an error sent employment packages for the acquiring company to all of her employees before she could break the news to them, she had to work quickly on a script to address the issue … while on a flight to Iceland. She tried it out on fellow passengers.
“And as God as my witness, Bob, who sat in seat 3B, was like, ‘I have some questions.’ I said, ‘Great. Let's put that on paper, Bob.’”
Taylor broke down her process for selling her business and what could have gone better.
Thanks for being a reader this year. We’re set up for an exciting 2020, and we hope you are, too.