Dealmaking can test the patience of even the most focused of entrepreneurs.
The travel back and forth, the exchange of information and proposals — the process can be draining. That’s why Ansir Junaid tries to compress the negotiating process when pursuing an acquisition, sharing details that he hopes can help move things along.
“We make sure the prospect can see a very clear road map of where we’re going with the business,” says Junaid, chairman at PWC Group, Prime Woodcraft and Supply Side USA. “They can get involved with us and be on the same page once they see the clear map and the opportunities involved with our businesses going forward. At the end of the day, you’re buying people.”
Junaid was the first person from his family to leave Pakistan for higher education. After earning degrees in marketing and management information systems, he went to work in Pepsi’s procurement department before he set out on his own to build his own business. Today, PWC is one of the largest pallet companies in the Midwest with locations nationwide.
We caught up with Junaid to talk about principles of dealmaking strategy and how two trips — one to Amish country and another to the other side of the world — led to pivotal business deals that made his business what it is today. What follows is a transcript of the above video, edited for readability.
Plot your future
What we look for — and we’ve bought companies and sold companies — the selling process is a very tedious process. You lose your focus, it takes a while. So what we try to do is your sales process has to be compressed in so many ways. What we look for in companies is we spend a lot of time communicating with the management teams. It’s all about the culture for us. It’s all about finding out who their customers are. Because of the new internet strategy and Amazon effect, we want to make sure that the business has been doing so well in the last three or four years, but what is going to happen going forward?
The supply chain business that we’re involved in, technology and automation, a lot of things are changing. So we spend a lot of time figuring that out. The other thing we do is with the management teams, we make sure they see a very clear road map of where we’re going with the business. They can get involved with us and be on the same page once they see the clear map and the opportunities involved with our businesses going forward. At the end of the day, you’re buying people. We used to buy a lot of 20-cents-on-the-dollar businesses. We realized that culture is everything. By the time we get our deal done, if the culture is not the same, it’s opportunity cost and it takes a while to correct everything and manage the business.
Be ready for unplanned opportunities
One of the interesting businesses we acquired 20-some years ago was a small deal. We were in the packaging business and an Amish businessperson reached out to us. They needed some accommodation to sell their products. As you know, the Amish are not selling a lot of products direct. They don’t have phones. Going back into the ’90s, we used to write them letters to get the deal done. The point of the matter is we went to visit the business. And it was just fascinating how they were cutting the logs from their construction lumber and furniture lumber and the rest of it was being used more for pallets.
But what it did for us is it opened a lot of doors. In the ’90s, distribution centers were starting to come in. We ended up doing a deal and we started helping them sell a lot of their new wood. The sustainability effort was starting to happen between the distribution centers and the back of their stores and it was becoming an asset. Today, one of our main businesses is pallet recycling. So it just evolved from there. Sometimes you just have to look out to buy the business and you have to look into every opportunity because you never know when the doors can open up for you.
Get your business ready
Business owners always, in my view, have to be ready to sell and look out for opportunities. The selling process is very tedious, so you have to maximize the value of your own business and it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s the first comment I would make is to get your business ready. Circumstances can change and if you want to exit or you want to end up buying the business, and sometimes we’re buying a lot of unsophisticated businesses in the fragmented industry. We’re noticing that sellers are not ready.
The second thing is networking is crucial because you never know when a deal will come through. I’ll give you an example of my own finding a deal. I’ve been a Clevelander for the last 25 years. We end up buying a business all the way in the Philippines. I was in Manila buying a medical business. I ended up talking to one of the associates because we were looking for a call center at that time. We were in the retail industry. I found out the gentleman who had owned the business all the way in Manila lived in Cleveland in my neighborhood. So just the networking was incredible. We did that deal. Now I didn’t have to go 5,000 miles away to figure that deal out, but I was open to that networking aspect of the business. You just have to be ready and on the lookout, because sometimes the opportunity is right in your backyard.