Journey of an acquisition

Everything we do at Henry Schein Animal Health is to support our company mission: to provide the best customer experience possible. That’s why, when we saw an opportunity to expand our business by acquiring Merritt Veterinary Supplies, an independent regional veterinary supplier based in South Carolina, we didn’t hesitate.

We felt that Merritt, as a family-owned company, shared our passion for the customer, and its strong presence in the eastern and southeastern U.S. allowed us to expand our business and reach even more veterinarians with quality services to help them run more efficient, successful practices.

But making an acquisition is not a quick, nor is it an easy, process. There is no substitute for hard work and careful preparation, because if you are meticulous in your planning, you will lay the foundation for the successful integration of two companies.

Perhaps some of the lessons we learned can benefit you if you are contemplating an addition to your company.

Strong leader, good plan

The right leadership leads to the positive completion of any project, and an acquisition is no exception. We selected a strong leader who reported directly to me, as president of Henry Schein Animal Health. We gave him — and I think this is essential — complete authority to run the project with aligned resources from throughout the organization.

A strong leader, empowered to make informed decisions, coupled with a select team committed to developing and then executing a detailed project plan, is a recipe for success.

In the beginning, weekly team meetings to review details are imperative, with more frequent meetings as the date of the acquisition announcement approaches. This will ensure a smooth transition into the integration phase that follows.

Integration lessons

During the nine months it took to finalize the acquisition, we learned some valuable lessons.

  • Preparation matters. We sought to and achieved a good plan, but did not require a perfect plan.
  • Good execution depends on everyone playing their positions, i.e. doing the tasks assigned to them. This encourages teamwork and an ability to trust the process.
  • A good plan leaves room to maneuver and a method to react quickly when necessary.
  • It’s important to include the acquired company leadership as “part of the team.”
  • Frequent and regular communication is key, from day one.

We are now in the process of fully integrating Merritt with Henry Schein Animal Health. We learned from our mistakes, yet minimized their impact through careful planning and excellent communication.

We recognized that a deep, shared commitment of a dedicated team is the cornerstone to achieving a successful transition.

We embarked on this acquisition journey in order to provide the best possible experience for our customers. We believe that we have done so by expanding our sales team and our distribution network, thanks to the acquisition of Merritt Veterinary Supplies.


Fran Dirksmeier is the president of Henry Schein Animal Health. Fran brings more than 30 years of experience to his position as president of Henry Schein Animal Health. He’s recognized in the health care industry for being both a visionary leader and a strategic entrepreneur with a track record for bringing out the best in people to drive growth and operational excellence.