Broken deals can create real hardship
Don’t dismiss the price of failure at the negotiating table
Most dealmakers enjoy the chase as much as the catch. Too many times, the motivation for the less-experienced ones is to jump into the fray, just because they can. This can squander a company’s most important assets: time and energy. And don’t forget about the money when, halfway into the process, the wannabe wheeler-dealer quickly realizes he or she is wasting these precious resources.
Companies are always floating trial balloons and casting their line just to see if they might get a nibble. If they do, this sets off a series of efforts that can become an exercise in futility as soon as either the buyer or the seller realizes the process is a wild goose chase.
If you are pondering selling your business, the first question you must ask yourself is, “Do I really want to sell?” If yes, at what price? What’s in the deal for the company’s constituents: customers, employees, owners and/or investors?
If you’re a potential buyer, there is another series of Q&A’s that need to be resolved before going to the next step. Will buying the proposed company mesh with existing strategies? Can you afford it? What is the likelihood of success? If you do succeed, can you make it work and provide an acceptable sustained return on your investment? Most importantly, project ahead five years and then, looking through the rear-view mirror, ask yourself if the combined company will be stronger and better after all of the initial drama and excitement of the union is a distant memory. An answer that is equally critical is can the combination be a springboard to other synergistic growth?
Too many times, particularly with large, highly visible amalgamations of public companies, the much-touted fondest dreams and great expectations prove illusionary as corporate cultures clash and expected synergies fall apart faster than Grant took Richmond in the infamous two-day decisive battle of the Civil War. The pages of the Wall Street Journal are littered with stories about deals that never delivered anywhere near the expected triumphant hype. Some even unraveled before the ink figuratively dried on the contract and became the catalyst to bring the company to its knees – or worse, to its grave.
Careful consideration must be given to what happens with the existing business of both sides during what many times can be a prolonged process before the nuptials. Could the resources that are diverted in assessing and making a deal, followed by creating an implementation plan, otherwise have been used to improve the existing businesses without the need to rush to the altar? Too many of these deals culminate in ugly name-calling and ultimately messy breakups when one side comes to its senses and abruptly ends the engagement. A few have even absolutely ruined both the buyer and seller as competitors sneak up on them while their attention is diverted.
On the flipside, there are many positive outcomes that can make both entities bigger and better as one, and the conjoined enterprise emerges as the industry leader faster and more economically than could have occurred if both companies went it solo.
Bottom line is think twice and understand all the ramifications before you commit to taking a seat at the negotiating table.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of $5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide. Today, as founder/CEO of Max-Ventures, his firm invests in and consults for retail businesses. Feuer serves on a number of boards, is a frequent national speaker and author of the business books “The Benevolent Dictator” and ”Tips from the Top.”