The pandemic has brought a shift in how resources are allocated at the professional firms that shepherd deals through a process. It tends to be the case that all parties involved want to get transactions completed quickly, but with so many looking to do a deal, they're so busy that even something such as a normal financing transaction that would typically take a month is taking three.
"They're just too strapped to be able to get it done and (because of) that friction the clients are not happy," says Benesch Senior Associate Michael Farrell.
Helping to reduce that friction are developments and technologies such as due diligence trackers and other software products that can create summaries out of key documents, while insurance products are available that can minimize many of the issues that need to be negotiated on the legal side, which means there's less to be negotiated between the lawyers.
While everyone in a deal wants it to be completed as quickly as possible, Farrell says from a legal perspective, speed can sometimes be difficult because there are legal issues that need to be contemplated that maybe the client doesn't understand, or client concerns that maybe lawyers don't understand.
"Going forward, the ability to cut down on those types of issues is going to create both positive and potentially negative effects on how a deal gets across the finish line," he says.
For Zell Capital and Nikola Labs Founder and Executive Chairman Will Zell, speed is also a factor when raising a round of venture capital.
"It's a lot like speed dating," Zell says. "You're getting in and you're trying to run a process where (you) start with 100 different leads and quickly narrow it down to two or three that say yes. So, for me, it starts with really having a very clear focus and clear view of what you want to achieve in the deal — so, what are the outcomes I’m looking for and who is the right partner?"
Reducing friction, then, means clearly defining from the start what he's looking for. That becomes the filter that helps him quickly get to a yes with an acquirer or an outside investor. Then, deeper into the process, he says one key is really understanding what the person on the other side of the table is looking for as well and building that relationship in advance.
"One of the things that we've done at Nikola Labs where we're out and we're raising a series c financing round right now, which is a large financing round, but the core group of investors that we're out talking to we've actually taken them on the journey with us for the last 18 to 24 months," Zell says. "So, we've done work well in advance of this deal to bring potential investors along on the journey. And to the degree that you can do that in the transaction it is super helpful. Whether that's an ultimate buyer or an intermediary, someone who is critical to the deal getting done, really having that long-term relationship in place is pretty important."
At last year's Columbus Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, Farrell and Zell, along with Benesch's Andy Bojko and Aon's Doug Brody, broke down best practices in navigating what’s new, and how to overcome stumbles, stops and re-starts in a process. Hit play to catch the full panel discussion.