Having sold his business, the once-high-growth startup focused on high-acuity homecare programs, Contessa Health, Co-Founder Travis Messina says when they ran their process, they used an investment bank. It was a competitive, which he says they were able to capitalize on.
Thinking about growth ahead of the sale process, he says Contessa was always focused initially on the core service of hospital-at-home, and typically executed growth in joint venture structures with health systems. When they ran the process, there was an emphasis on communicating the company's very clear growth strategy and core product.
"It wasn't some three-year, wishful thinking," he says. "We had a new product in palliative care that had been built out. It was launching in the first market. It was very methodical growth in that new product line. And so, educating them very much on the fact that this is a real opportunity, is actionable within the next 12 months, and here's the status of those respective discussions, it helped gain credibility into the pro forma that we were selling."
Ultimately, he says, the addressable market was a considerable focal point for the sponsors that were looking at the recap.
"They put a tremendous amount of energy and understanding what truly is that addressable market," Messina says. "We do hospital-at-home, and some of our competitors would say, There's a trillion dollars of hospital spend, so we have a trillion-dollar addressable market, which is clearly not the case. So, putting a lot of rigor to that analysis ultimately ended up helping us with Amedisys when they came to acquire so that they could communicate that to the public markets."
When it came to integration, he says Amedisys has a very strict playbook, and they were very candid early on about what they were going to do and how we're going to do it. Still, there is responsibility on both sides of the team to make it work.
"Once we felt really strongly that we were going with Amedisys, it was incumbent upon me to start to communicate to my team, This is what it's going to be like," he says. "We're not calling the shots. And there's a reason why we're selling to this beyond just the valuation, it's because they can make our business better. And so making sure that our team understands, There's a lot of give that we have to have."
He says he was very cognizant of not having the Contessa team leave because they felt that the culture was strong. But he urged Amedisys to move swiftly because if it takes too long doing those types of integration type initiatives, it's the proverbial death by 1000 paper cuts.
"One person leaves one month, like every month, every quarter, you have more and more people leaving and it can be really demoralizing," he says. "Now, that didn't happen with Contessa. I had a transaction background. Prior to starting the company, I did corp dev for a Blackstone company, and then I was an M&A banker, and I saw that a number of times. And so if you just say it early on, and you stick to that plan, and you implement it swiftly, then it can enable you to get through some of those cultural differences. But I think sellers really have to recognize the fact that it's not going to be the same, but they can make you tremendously better. And so having those discussions so that when those discussions come about from the acquirer, and they say, But this is the way we've always done it, make sure that you have the right people around the table that say, Okay, how do we get to the right answer, as opposed to this is the way we've done it."
When it comes to things not to do, he says don't kick the can down the road on some elements. Instead, stick to the plan that was originally outlined, regardless of what happens in the market, because the market is not going to be what it is.