Finding a list of companies to acquire is exciting! You start thinking about all the possibilities and how the deal will grow your business exponentially. But before you move forward with any of these candidates, take a step back and make sure you are looking at companies in the right markets.

What are the “right markets?” Markets that have a healthy, stable demand and are growing. After all the primary driver for acquisitions is to help your company grow. Without researching markets first, you risk acquiring a company in a stagnant or declining market. Although the company may have strong financials today, if there’s no demand in the marketplace, your acquisition won’t deliver the expected returns on growth in the future. Without first selecting a market, you have reason to beware of even the most tempting buying opportunities.

Finding the right market begins by defining the market using geography, verticals or another relevant factor, and by developing market criteria to aid in your decision-making. Your research will begin with a broad sweep and become progressively narrower as you learn more about the market.  Your market criteria will help you objectively evaluate and compare the markets against your strategic rationale for acquisition.

Researching markets first not only helps you avoid acquiring a bad company, it helps you identify the best companies to buy. By conducting market research, you will gain a better understanding of the market, which will help you evaluate acquisition prospects and negotiate with owners as you proceed with the acquisition process.

Learn more about the “markets first” approach in our upcoming webinar How to Pick Top-Notch Markets.

After this webinar you will be able to:

  • Understand the market-driven process
  • Explain market criteria (market growth and size, competitive dynamics, barriers to entry) and how to use them to evaluate a market or segment
  • Describe effective secondary & primary market research techniques
  • Explain the triangulation technique to obtain the most relevant information for accurate decision-making
  • Develop tools to objectively compare and contrast markets

How to Pick Top-Notch Markets

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

CPE credit is available,

Photo Credit: Paul Benson via Flickr cc

Are you keeping up with industry changes fast enough? Or are you being left behind? It’s no secret that technology is disrupting industries from manufacturing to telecommunications to retail.

“…The risk of being left behind because of technological disruption and change is driving companies to make acquisitions faster,” Steven Davidoff Solomon writes in Dealbook.

For many firms, acquisitions are the only way to obtain a new technology or product and remain a competitive player in the marketplace.

Technology firms are notorious for acquiring startups or smaller firms to gain the latest talent and cutting-edge products. For example, Facebook acquired new technology when it bought potential rivals Instagram and WhatsApp. At the same time it bolstered its position against Google.

Another sector that’s facing great disruption is the financial industry. Most think of traditional brick and mortar banks, suits and ties, credit cards, debit cards, etc. The reality is FinTech (financial technology) is reshaping the industry. PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay are growing in popularity and traditional banks need to keep up or risk losing consumers. Traditional big banks are acquiring, rather than building, FinTech capabilities. JPMorgan Chase has formed a joint venture with On Deck, an online lending platform for small businesses.

The advantage of acquisitions, especially in a swiftly changing environment, is the ability to gain a new technology or product rapidly and in some cases immediately. A well-executed acquisition brings you a “ready-made” solution where once the deal closes you have access to new technology, new technology that your customers need. On the other hand, building your own solution can take more time, but in today’s fast-paced environment, by the time you develop your own solution, the market may have moved on. In addition, you’ll likely face some teething problems or setbacks as you begin to develop a solution.

If there’s a technology or product that your company needs to stay relevant today or in the next five to ten years, I recommend you consider acquisition as an option. A carefully planned, strategic acquisition can help you stay up-to-date and relevant in your industry.

Photo Credit: Barn Images

Unilever purchased Dollar Shave Club, a startup that sells razors and grooming products to men, for $1 billion. That price may seem absurd for a company that is not yet profitable, however Dollar Shave club is growing quickly.

The company’s revenue is expected to jump from $152 million in 2015 to $200 million in 2016. Dollar Shave Club was founded 2012 by Michael Dubin and delivers razors and other grooming products to subscribers each month by mail. The acquisition also gives Unilever a foothold in the U.S. men’s razor market and allows it to compete with its rival Procter & Gamble, who owns Gillette, the top player.

In contrast, Gillette’s market share has shrunk from 71% of the U.S. market in 2010 to 59% in 2015. Gillette was caught off guard by the success of Dollar Shave Club and tried to halt its growth by filing a lawsuit against Dollar Shave Club claiming patent infringement.

Understanding Future Customer Demand

The acquisition of Dollar Shave Club highlights the importance of understanding and capturing future customer demand. The ability to fulfill the demands of your current customers and of your customers in the future remains key to the success of any company. After all, customers are what keeps you in business!

This demand-driven approach is incredibly important in pursuing strategic mergers and acquisitions that help you grow long-term. Not only does Dollar Shave Club allow Unilever to compete in the U.S., it allows Unilever to capitalize on the rise of ecommerce and a popular brand name. More and more consumers are buying products online rather than in stores and subscription-based businesses are increasingly popular. Amazon even has a button that literally allows consumers to order everyday goods like soaps, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, and even some groceries, at the push of a button. Purchasing Dollar Shave Club is not just about growing today; it’s about growing in the future.

Clearly the market is different than it was even five or ten years ago and it will continue evolving over the next five, ten or 15 years. As a business leader you have two choices – maintain business as usual and react when faced with a new competitor and industry disruptor, or proactively develop a plan to leverage changes to your advantage. The choice is yours.

Photo Credit: Paul Roth via Flickr cc

Finding the right partner is a crucial component of successful mergers and acquisitions and pursuing a deal with the wrong company can be a costly mistake. We’ve all seen the headlines of major mergers and acquisitions that have fallen apart at some point along the deal – whether it’s before the transaction closes or during integration. On the other hand, if done right, with the correct partner, strategic M&A allows a business to grow rapidly and effectively and gain a competitive advantage.

When searching for companies to acquire, it is important to keep three things in mind: Strategy, demand, and options.

Strategy First

Any successful M&A process must begin with a solid, strategic rationale. Why do you want to make an acquisition? What will the acquisition accomplish? How is M&A aligned with your overall growth strategy?

It makes no sense to pursue M&A simply for the sake of it with no real plan in mind. That is like starting out on a trip without a map (or GPS or smartphone) and hoping you will arrive at the correct destination. Make sure you have a plan and strategy.

Be Demand-driven

Once you have developed your strategy, you should determine the right market to focus before you being looking at individual companies. This “markets-first” approach allows you select markets that have a healthy, stable demand for your acquisition partner’s products or services. Without taking future demand into consideration, you risk acquiring a company in a shrinking market where demand for its products and services are in decline. Avoid pursuing these unqualified acquisition prospects by selecting the best markets for growth before researching acquisition prospects.

Have Many Options

While you may only be acquiring one company, it’s not enough to only pursue one acquisition prospect at a time. You do not want to spend all your time and effort pursuing one company only to risk having the deal fall apart in the end. Deals fall apart for a number of reasons – the owner get cold feet, you can’t agree on the deal terms, a competitor comes along, etc. If you have only looked at one company you will find yourself back at square one with nothing to show for all your time and effort spent chasing the deal.

In fact, it takes up to 75 to 100 candidates to identify the right deal. It’s not enough to have a plan B, you need a plan C, D, E, F, and so on. We encourage you to broaden your search for prospects to include not-for-sale companies. Not-for-sale simply means the owner is not actively considering sell – not that they will never sell the company. By including not-for-sale companies in your search you significantly expand your universe of potential acquisition prospects.

Think of your prospect pipeline as a funnel. Gradually, as you move forward in the M&A process, you will eliminate candidates that are not an ideal fit with you strategic rationale for acquisition. With the “funnel” approach you can move prospects along simultaneously, in a systematic and efficient manner.

Learn more about Building a Robust Pipeline of Acquisition Prospects in our webinar on March 17.

Date: Thursday, March 17
Time: 1:00 PM ET
CPE credit available.

Photo Credit: Barn Images

In today’s internet age it seems like information is widely and almost instantaneously available. Just open up a web browser and type your search into Google and thousands of hits show up in less than a second. But how much of that information is accurate?

Precise data is critical to every business decision, especially when determining your strategic plans for growth. When pursuing M&A, understanding the market landscape and future demand of your customers is essential for the success of the deal and the growth of your company. If you develop your acquisition strategy based on unverified or inaccurate data, you risk making an expensive mistake.

While the internet can be a good place to start your research, you really need to dig deeper to get the complete picture. One of the best ways to get an accurate picture of the marketplace is by conducting primary research, where you talk directly key players in the marketplace. We use a technique called the “Triangulation Approach.” You will be speaking with three main groups:

  1. Customers of the product or service can help you identify unmet needs. Ideally you should speak with a mix of large and small customers.
  2. Competitors will help you identify what it’s like to exist in the market what affects their business on a regular basis, and give you an about the competitive landscape. It may be a bit tricky contacting competitors, and you may want to consider using an outsider third party for this research.
  3. Suppliers are those who sell into the market and whose customers may be your future competition. For example a part maker or tire maker in the auto industry.

Lastly, to tie all your research together you will want to speak with trade associations, industry publications, government or even academia. They will generally be more objective and have a broader view of the market and can even help with market segmentation. We have found in particular magazines of trade associations can be extremely helpful. Those writers generally have a good pulse on the industry while maintaining a big picture view.

The Triangulation Approach

The Triangulation Approach

The main benefit of using the Triangulation Approach is that you obtain information from multiple sources in order to confirm or deny information found in secondary research. When speaking to customers or competitors it is impossible to get 100% information, but through multiple conversations you will be able to compare and contrast information. Using the triangulation approach, you can put together a holistic, accurate view of the marketplace.

Armed with this information you will have a clear picture of future demand and be able to make the right decisions for growing your business through M&A.

 

Photo Credit: Barn Images

The new year is off to a rocky start. The stock market’s performance so far in 2016 is fueling worries about the economy; globally stocks have slumped, oil prices continue to drop, and investors fear a new financial crisis. While it may be tempting to panic, a challenging market also presents a unique opportunity for strategic leaders.  In today’s environment, M&A can be a powerful tool to spur growth and tackle new obstacles.

The secret to successful growth is to adopt a demand-driven philosophy toward M&A, focusing on markets that have a high potential for future growth. Rather than generating a list of acquisition targets, some of which may be in declining markets, adopt a “markets-first” approach. Investigate which markets – geographic or vertical – will perform well for years to come. Begin your search broadly, then conduct research on specific market segments. This will help you develop a pipeline of relevant acquisition candidates.

Learn more about this markets-first, demand-driven approach to M&A in our Feb. 18 webinar:How to Pick Top-Notch Markets.”  CPE credit is available.

This webinar will equip you to:

  • Understand the market-driven process
  • Identify market criteria (such as market growth, competitive dynamics, barriers to entry, etc.) and use them to evaluate a market or segment
  • Describe effective secondary and primary market research techniques
  • Use the “triangulation technique” to obtain the most relevant information for accurate decision-making
  • Develop tools to objectively compare and contrast markets.

How to Pick Top-Notch Markets Webinar

    • Date: February 18
    • Time: 1:00 PM ET

About Capstone Webinars

Learn M&A Uabout strategic growth through M&A in Capstone’s monthly webinar series. In each live webinar, a seasoned M&A expert provides practical tools and tactics to accelerate your company’s growth. Continuing Professional Education credits are available. Attend all twelve Capstone Webinars and earn the M&A U™ Webinar Certificate to display your commitment to this important field in your business education. Click here to learn more.

Photo credit: Barn Images

What do you do when sales decline? If you’re Diageo, you move to Africa.

Diageo, the maker of Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker whisky, has been a global liquor powerhouse for years. However, the company’s growth has been slowing in its traditional markets of North America, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. In other words, organic growth (business as usual) is stagnant.

In this situation, Africa offers Diageo a huge potentially untapped market. It’s no secret that Africa is on the rise. According to IMF estimates, Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria are expected to grow between 4-5% in 2015 and 2016. No wonder that Diageo is pursuing an aggressive external growth strategy in the region.

The company recently made a $208 million bid to increase its stake in Guinness Nigeria, which houses Diageo’s beer brands. Diageo also terminated its partnership with Heineken in South Africa in July. Both of these moves would give Diageo more control over the business in its expansion in Africa.

Diageo is also pursuing growth in the spirits trade by building its own brands specifically for the African market. The company recognizes the need to “move down market;” rather than push expensive brands. In Africa, it is focused on selling to the masses, and sales have risen 6%.

Even though Africa presents a huge opportunity, there are challenges with expanding to a new market. Diageo is not alone in eyeing Africa – it faces competition from other companies like SABMiller which is pushing for higher beer consumption on that continent. And in some markets Diageo’s spirits business and beer business compete against each other.

When faced with stalled growth, meeting demand to a new market can be a life-saver for your business. Diageo has recognized the need to go where demand is on the rise.

However different your product, you may be in a similar position to Diageo – you see the writing on the wall and your once profitable markets are shrinking or stagnant. Don’t despair. Now is the time to look to future demand. Which markets are growing? Where are new customers to be found?

Once you’ve identified a market in which to expand, think about how you’ll get there? You can use M&A to expand rapidly and effectively in a new market and ensure your business continues to thrive.

Photo Credit – Nicholas Raymond via Flickr cc
Don’t let the competition define your external growth strategy. Instead, plan for the people who matter most ─ your customers.

Let’s face it ─ we all care about what other people think, and in business that often means measuring how we stack up against the competition. While it’s important to keep an eye on competitors, it’s unwise to base your strategy on what they do. Playing catch-up is not a winning formula for three reasons:

1) You will always be a step behind. Necessarily, you can only react to what your competitors do after the fact. How can you be innovative if you are always waiting for…Continue reading this post on AMA Playbook.

*This post was originally published on AMA Playbook. Visit David Braun’s author page to read all of his articles.

Facebook acquired Oculus VR, Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for $2 billion. This is Facebook’s second big acquisition in 2014 – it recently purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion. With these two acquisitions Facebook is expanding beyond its current social network platform by adding new capabilities and products. According to Facebook, wearable technology is the next big thing.

“The history of our industry is that every 10 or 15 years there’s a new major computing platform, whether it’s the PC, the Web or now mobile,” said Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Finding the Next “Big Thing”

Zuckerberg may be on to something given greater attention to  wearable tech. Google has been developing Google Glass for the past couple of years and earlier this week Luxottica, maker of Ray-Ban sunglasses, announced a strategic partnership with Google – suggesting the Google Glass will become more mainstream. Google also unveiled its new smart watch earlier this week to compete with others like Apple’s rumored iWatch and watches made by Samsung and Sony.

Staying Ahead of Your Customers

While Facebook was late to invest in mobile, it has a chance to profit from the wearable tech trend. Acquisitions allow companies to move quickly into new industries and add new capabilities, products or services. Many would view this as staying ahead of the competition, but I like to think about it as staying ahead of your customers.

In reality you want to anticipate the needs of your customers before they realize them. Your success depends on satisfying the demands of your customers and at times exceeding them. Anticipating big shift towards virtual reality and wearable devices, Facebook acquired Oculus to meet a future need. What would this approach look like for your business? What will your customers want in the future? As you plan your business growth, I challenge you to attempt thinking ahead of your customers.

 

Photo Credit: Sergey Galyonkin via Compfight cc

Capstone Webinar:
Finding Opportunity for Growth in Tough Times
CPE Credit Awarded
Thursday, April 8, 2010; 1:00 PM ET

David Braun, CEO of Washington, DC- based external growth consulting firm Capstone, is hosting a webinar.

David will focus on where you can find opportunity for growth in the toughest economy in a generation.  His main message remains, “If not now, when?”

You and your company may be trying to simply weather the current storm, but others, perhaps even your competitors, are getting stronger now and positioning themselves for the future.  David will offer solutions for how you can take advantage of the current climate.

After completing this course, you will be able to:
•    Use Statistical Evidence and Trends to Discuss Today’s Economy from a Historic Perspective
•    Define the Five Growth Options for Your Company
•    Explain why External Growth (Acquisition, Joint Venture, etc.) Can Be the Best Option for Your Company
•    Describe the Current State of the M&A Market Using Relevant Statistics and Indicators
•    Begin to Develop a Formalized Step-by-step M&A Process for Your Company

David will speak for approximately 50 minutes followed by a question-and-answer session.

Date:  Thursday, April 8, 2010
Time: 1:00 PM ET/ Noon CT/ 11:00 AM MT/ 10:00 AM PT

No Prerequisites or Advanced Preparation needed!

To register, click here:  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/692231858

Registration Fee: $79

IMPORTANT PAYMENT INFORMATION:  Once you register, we will send you a request for payment via PayPal (may take up to 24 hours).  Once payment is confirmed, your registration will be approved and you will receive the log-in information for the webinar.

CPE Credits – 1 CPE credit in Business Management and Organization will be given for those attending this webinar
Program Level:  Basic
Delivery Method: Group Internet-Based

Mark your calendar for our upcoming webinars for CPE Credit:
•    Thursday, May 6, 2010 1 PM ET: “Identifying the Right Markets for Expansion” – 1 credit in Business Management and Organization
•    Friday, June 5, 2010 1 PM ET: “How to Find Top-Notch Companies” – 1 credit in Business Management and Organization

Please feel free to forward this information on to anyone who might be interested in corporate growth strategies.

Refund policy: Requests for refunds must be received in writing by 1:00 PM ET Wednesday, April 7 and the money will be refunded in full within 5 business days.  After 1:00 PM ET on Wednesday, April 7, a credit will be given for a future webinar.  In the event of a cancellation, you will be given the option of of a full refund or applying your fee to a future webinar.

For questions or concerns, please contact Matt Craft, Capstone’s Marketing Coordinator, at 703-854-1910 or mcraft@capstonestrategic.com

Capstone Strategic, Inc. is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy as a sponsor of continuing professional education of the National Registry of CPE Sponsors.  State boards of accountancy have final authority on the acceptance of individual courses for CPE credit.  Complaints regarding registered sponsors may be addressed to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors, 150 4th Ave N, Suite 700, Nashville, TN, 37219-2417. Website: www.nasba.org

looking-aheadWith the shaky economy, I am constantly hearing clients talk about how to get through the tough times now.  While this is obviously a valid concern, I caution them not to forget about the future – specifically future demand.

Future demand is king for reasons that are self-evident, once you pause to think about it. Ultimately your growth will depend on your success in meeting the needs of customers you have yet to capture. What do they want today? What will they want in the future? Business winners are the ones who best answer these two questions, especially the second. At Capstone, we put painstaking effort into market research, and go to great lengths our attempts to predict future trends.

Once the orientation has shifted to future market demand, a tremendous clarity emerges in the strategic process. We have a basis for defining our criteria for decisions like: which direction to grow, which growth tactics to adopt, where in the market to focus and what to add to our current resources.

Although times may be tough now, your success as a company depends largely what plans you make for the future.