Growth by acquisition can be exponential, exciting and financially rewarding. If you get it right. But in many cases the acquisition doesn’t work out, the acquiring company struggles to integrate the new company, and the new company fails to fit in.
So how do you make successful acquisitions? Who better to ask than Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers
whose successful acquisition strategy over the past 10 years has seen the business develop into a truly global portfolio of 90 companies in 30 different countries, employing 6,000 people, with an annual turnover in excess of £1.35bn.
Murray Strachan chaired the evening. He summed up Jim’s key advice quite simply:
• Focus on what you’re good at, what you can add value to and/or leverage.
• Remember the best business to be in is the one you’re already in.
• Research competition, market/industry sectors and look for gaps, potential and to identify targets.
• Development and implementation of a 100-day plan is the key to integration and success.
• Motivate the management team, help them understand the vision and let them help in developing the storyboard.
• Be careful with the brand of the target, and/or eroding its inherent value.
• Always present an acquisition as a merger.
“Jim’s key approach came down to four factors, said Murray. “Big ambition, a “can do” attitude, understanding your markets and thinking globally.
“There were so many lessons and golden nuggets from Jim my arm hurt writing them all down. What a guy!”
For Amanda Boyle of Bloom VC the key lesson was that successful acquisitions focus on the return not the cost and the most valuable due diligence is carried out on operational issues by an internal team before professional services are engaged.
“Planning and ambition are important at every stage of building your business,” said Amanda. “It’s important to map and articulate these then share with everyone, every day… so that’s what I aim to do!”
She added: “Doing the right thing can be compatible with big ambition. A strong sense of personal values shines through Jim’s approach to negotiation.
The most memorable piece of advice that Tony Banks took away from the evening was that Scotland would flourish as an independent nation.
Tony, of Balhousie Care Group, added:” The highlights for me were tips to get your own team to do most of the operational diligence during an acquisition and then get the ‘expensive’ professionals to only provide confirmatory diligence.
“There will be no major changes in my business but I need to talk to Jim about raising funds and becoming a debt financier,” smiled Tony.
Attendee Thoughts and Key Tips
“Lots of practical advice and guidance, underpinned by focus, patience and sharp vision. What shone through were Jim’s priorities and values, and a very clear sense of self.”
“Target peoples dreams not just how much they want to be paid. Make that dream a reality!”
“Key tip for me – operational diligence before you bring in the expensive professionals to carry out the confirmatory diligence.”
“1. Get to know the firms first, just ‘drop in’ for a coffee whilst you’re in the area – so really get to understand the business from afar 2. Let them think you’re merging 3. Keep staff informed & updated with your goals 4. Do diligence internally where possible.”
“My tips from the evening – Market analysis – get to really know your market and competitors – Key staff – play to their dreams when looking to incentivise – Story board – set out clearly the vision for all to see and buy into – Can do attitude is essential – Look at what you are good at – best business to be in is the one you’re in!”
Jim also recommended a number of his favourite books, his personal top ten list is here. Better get them on your Santa list!
1. Think and Grow Rich – by Napoleon Hill
2. Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude – by W. Clement Stone
3. You’ll See It When You Believe It – by Wayne W. Dyer
4. You Can If You Think You Can – by Norman Vincent Peale
5. Born to Success – by Colin Turner
6. Are You Positive? – by Richard Gaylord Briley
7. The Secret – by Rhonda Byrne
8. A Passion for Success – by Kazuo Inamori
9. Ask And It Is Given – by Esther and Jerry Hicks
10. Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think – by Peter H. Diamandis