Pat Covey and Davey Tree learn and grow through strategic acquisitions

Building confidence through success

Strategic acquisitions can be sensitive matters, requiring discretion and trust between the parties. Covey says the company’s outreach to its competitors has improved, as has its ability to build the relationships that are required for success, the latter of which is very important to sellers who don’t want to see their legacy tarnished because of a sale.

“If they’re leaving the business, if they’re going to turn the keys over to a company (they want to know) that company is going to take care of their employees and preserve their legacy,” he says.

Davey has gotten better at building relationships with sellers to ensure a high degree of trust going into the transaction, Covey says, which has helped the process as well as the pipeline of potential deals.

It’s not enough, however, to be good at dealing with sellers. Among the assets transferred in these deals are people, and Davey has come to realize the importance of understanding the state of mind of those who come to the company through an acquisition.

“You have to be very cognizant of the fact that the people coming in are fearful of a lot of things. It’s a new ownership for them, they’re afraid for their jobs, they’re afraid for their benefits. You have to really be aware and cognizant of putting yourself in their position and try to address their concerns. Keep them engaged, communicate as much as you can, and be honest, truthful and straightforward. Never say anything that you can’t follow through on,” Covey says.

Emphasizing communication and finding ways to make it easier for the acquired employees to accept that their world is changing prevents losing engagement and productivity, he says.

“I think we’ve managed that process very sensitively, and with an eye toward doing what’s right for the employees that we’re bringing in, and giving them great opportunities to be successful,” Covey says.

Now that Davey has shown the industry it’s interested in strategic growth, and the company has handled each acquisition well, word has gotten out and inquiries are coming in weekly from companies that are interested in selling, according to Covey. Its success and the positive response have gone a long way for Davey’s confidence in its ability.

“Every one is different. Every single one has their own little challenges, but we’ve been through it and we’ll work though it and it will be fine,” he says. “And I think that once we got past those fears, it’s just become a lot easier to bring on five acquisitions, or however many we need to do.”