Located in North Carolina, CREO, Inc. is an innovative management consulting firm that provides expertise throughout the M&A process to companies engaging in inorganic growth. CREO is led by Susan Acker-Walsh, who is both co-founder and CEO. Acker-Walsh herself boasts a 35 year background in Corporate Development, leadership, and transactions related work. Though the specifics of her career and the guidance it has enacted are vast, Acker-Walsh specifically offered advice on tuck-in strategies and the concept of simplicity via a robust process in our latest webinar. Below we capture four aspects of her wisdom focused on crafting an effective deal process for frequent acquirers.
Process is paramount — especially when capturing synergies, running parallel deals, and trying to maintain daily operations while engaging in inorganic growth. Here are some of Acker-Walsh’s key insights:
- Frequent acquirers must develop their own process and learn from past deals in order to tap into a strategic advantage.
CREO aims to impart knowledge on its clients so they can eventually carry out deals themselves, using the same programmatic formula. One way of doing this is by leveraging a comprehensive M&A platform. After a deal closes, the information from such software provides acquirers with an archive of data and process, such that the next time the team goes to do a deal, they don’t have to start from scratch. A template with their desired process is already in place and ready to use.
- Continuity of the deal team is critical.
Frequent acquirers must learn the importance of continuity when it comes to the deal team, as it is part of building an effective M&A machine. Acker-Walsh recommends rotating top talent into deal teams so they learn and become part of the “go to” group. Repetition and increased learning generate a true growth model.
- Frequent acquirers should recognize and harness the power of parallel deals.
As companies do more deals, Acker-Walsh highlights a trend of deal speed and a healthy appetite for risk, which results in a realization that there are significant benefits from running parallel deals. While the fit still needs to be right, companies that pass on deals because they are in the midst of another deal miss out. As Acker-Walsh notes, “the bigger downside is not doing the deal if it is the right fit if you don’t have the manpower.” Running multiple deals at the same time not only requires a strong will on the part of the acquirer and support from the top, but also hinges upon an acquirer’s organized and consistent M&A process. It should be observed that this might be a time to tap into experts to support the team with focused experience.
- Create a deal thesis for multiple deals.
When focusing on a series of deals, the acquirer must develop a clear deal thesis for the M&A program. Here, structure and oversight become critical. What is the structure that will govern the program? Then, consider the people, processes, and technology you will be integrating as this will allow you to avoid the tragedy of partially integrated targets and/or many subcultures. Next, consider how costs will be managed. Similarly, examine how you will ensure the “go to market” opportunity is cultivated so you can realize the inherent revenue synergy. Finally, plan for how and when you will get everyone back to business as usual.
Companies engaging in inorganic growth must shift from viewing M&A as purely an “art” to the more practical view of it being a business process, aided by repeatable systems and formulas. With a focus on alignment, growth, and results, CREO empowers its clients to develop a fitting deal process and execute in a strategic manner. For more on Susan Acker-Walsh’s M&A insights and stories from the M&A battlefield, view the full tuck-in strategies webinar.