Hard work + discipline = success

Last month, hundreds of area dealmakers — business owners, private equity investors, entrepreneurs and service providers — came together for Smart Business’ first ASPIRE conference in Pittsburgh. Experts talked about buying and selling businesses, raising capital, and liquidity events, including the trends they’re seeing in the market.

It was an educational and exciting day. However, if you missed the Pittsburgh event, don’t worry. We’ll be holding ASPIRE events in Cleveland in May and in Columbus in September, and I know some Pittsburgh attendees will be heading out to those, as well.

Merger and acquisition activity remains high, which is part of the reason why I asked John J. Engel, chairman, president and CEO of WESCO Distribution Inc., about his advice on the subject.

WESCO has completed more than 40 acquisitions since it spun out as a standalone company in 1994, and Engel says it’s an important topic for him and his team.

WESCO’s largest acquisition, EECOL Electric Corp., a Canadian company, was finalized in 2012 and cost more than $1 billion. WESCO, however, worked on its relationship with EECOL for well over five years before the deal.

In general, Engel says the majority of acquisitions never close because even if the deal makes sense strategically on paper, the cultural and integration aspects get in the way.

“I’ve seen other companies that don’t spend the time on that pre-acquisition close,” he says. “They worry about the financial model. They worry about the strategic rationale and all that stuff, how to finance it, but they don’t spend the time getting to know the talent and then figuring out exactly how will this talent integrate in. And will it even fit culturally?”

It takes a lot of hard work and discipline behind the scenes before an announcement is made.

One organization that isn’t afraid of hard work is Fort Ligonier, featured in the Uniquely. The fort is at the tail end of a renovation with new exhibits, more hours and an education center. Executive Director Annie Urban says the fort’s staff got it all started by putting together their ultimate wish list for what an optimal visitor experience would be like, and then stuck with it to make much of the list a reality.