“We did an acquisition about 15 years ago. It did not go well…I guess you could say we are still ‘recovering,’ the CEO of a family-owned business recently shared with me during a meeting.

She went on to explain there were a number of integration issues and other challenges that cropped up post-closing that the company was not prepared to handle. From payroll issues to disgruntled employees to operational challenges – the experience was “traumatic,” for the organization according to the CEO.

Fortunately, the company is in a better place today and is ready to explore new ways to grow. While leadership recognizes the potential of a strategic acquisition, because of their previous experience, they are, understandably, hesitant.

It’s not uncommon to have this reaction. But just because an acquisition didn’t work in the past, it doesn’t mean you have to abandon M&A as a tool for growth. You can learn from what went wrong last time and be successful when executing future deals.

There are many reasons deals fail from culture clashes, hidden liabilities, poor planning, or simply inadequate of expertise, but these issues point to one overarching reason for acquisition failure – lack of strategy. Alarmingly, many companies take on a reactive approach to acquisitions, buying whatever company comes their way without first developing a strategic plan. Not having a plan is a surefire way to fail.

In the case of our family-owned business, they decided to take on a strategic approach to M&A this time around. Unlike last time, where they adopted a “plan as you” approach to M&A, they dedicated serious resources to establishing a strategic plan for acquisition prior to even looking at companies. This included identifying potential integration challenges and developing a 100-day post-closing plan long before the deal closed to avoid the same issues as last time. With a firm foundation the company was able to identify the right opportunities for growth and execute a successful transaction.

If you are still suffering from the results of a failed acquisition, I encourage you to adopt a strategic approach right now. Gather your team together to review your growth options in light of your overall strategic vision. Then, you can determine your next steps whether its organic growth, external growth, minimizing costs, exiting a business, or doing nothing. With a strategy in place, you will avoid many pitfalls and maximize your chances for success.

3M, the maker of Post-it, will acquire Scott Safety from Johnson Controls for $2 billion to build up its safety division. This is the second largest acquisition for 3M after its purchase of Capital Safety, a maker of fall protection equipment such as harnesses, lanyards, and self-retracting lifelines, from KKR & Co. for $2.5 billion in 2015.

Scott Safety’s products include respiratory-protection products, thermal-imaging devices, and other products for firefighters and industrial workers. The company will become a part of 3M’s safety division, which accounts for 18% of the company’s sales in 2016 and is the second largest division.

3M is using acquisitions to boost slow growth in the US and to combat industry challenges in the consumer and electronic sector. In 2016, 3M executed a number of acquisitions and divestments as part of its realignment strategy. The company sold its temporary protective films business, safety prescription eyewear business, and pressurized polyurethane foam adhesives business. 3M also purchased Semfinder, a medical coding technology company.

Here are two lessons for leaders who are thinking about company growth.

1. Acquisitions can jumpstart growth.

When organic growth options such as, opening a new store or adding new products, fail to grow revenue significantly, it may be time to look at external growth. Strategic leaders evaluate shifting industry dynamics to anticipate future demand and then use acquisitions to reposition their companies to capture a share of the high-growth market. When completed, the acquisition of Scott Safety will add 1,500 employees, $570 million in revenue, and a slew of products immediately to 3M’s safety division.

2. Acquisition isn’t just about getting bigger.

Acquisition is truly about recalibrating your business and focusing on strategy. Although 3M is acquiring Scott Safety, the company also divested of a number of businesses in 2016 and is paring down from 40 business units to 25.

On the other hand, the seller, Johnson Control is also realigning their business with this divestment. “Consistent with our priority to focus the portfolio on our two core platforms of Buildings and Energy, we continue to execute on our strategic plan.” said Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli.

Photo Credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr cc

There’s a myth that acquisitions are only executed by huge, publicly-traded, Fortune 500 companies, but that’s simply not the true. In reality, there are many acquisitions conducted by small and middle market firms that are private transactions and are not reported to the media.

There are many reasons to consider acquisitions, regardless of the size of your business. A smaller, highly focused acquisition can grow your company and be incredibly profitable. In fact, small transactions allow you to execute your strategy covertly and avoid alerting your competition to your growth strategy. With a small, strategic acquisition there is less of a risk of integration issues and acquisition failure because the deal is not transformative for the organization. At the same time, a small, strategic acquisition can fulfill a targeted growth need and positively impact a company’s long-term growth.

Another reason people don’t consider acquisitions is because they think they are too expensive. While acquisitions do require a significant amount of financial resources to execute, the cost of organic growth or doing nothing may be higher than the cost of M&A. When looking at the bigger picture, it may be more expensive to develop a new product on your own or take too much time. Companies often use acquisitions to move quickly and implement a ready-made solution. If you are concerned about cost, keep in mind there are ways to mitigate the price of a deal. Only you can determine if acquiring or building your own solution is best, but you should consider both options simultaneously.

Whether or not you decide to grow through external or organic growth, you should consider both as tools, regardless of the size of your company. For every company, unintentionally falling into the trap of doing nothing is dangerous. Innovation, either from external growth or through in-house development, is key to long-term success. Think about companies that lost their edge do to failure to innovate. Blockbuster didn’t adapt from DVD to streaming and lost out to Netflix and Redbox and the once dominant BlackBerry, which failed to compete with iPhone. The cost of unintentionally doing nothing can mean your services and products become obsolete, so make sure you consider your next steps with the future in mind.

Photo credit: Barnimages.com via Flickr cc

Are you exploring all your options for growth? When you think about a growing your credit union or CUSO through a “merger” strategy, you may be tempted to focus on consolidation alone. While combining two credit unions can be a pathway to growth, it is important to recognize it is just one of a number of options available to you. Consolidation may not be the best solution for your organization and may not help you add the value you had hope for.

In a CU Insight article, Kirk Drake, CEO of Ongoing Operations, a credit union service organization, and John Dearing, Managing Director of Capstone, discuss the growth options available to credit unions and CUSOs and how to use strategic mergers and acquisitions to maximize your growth potential.

Read the article on CU Insight.

Recent analysis shows that deal activity reached $435 billion in the first quarter of 2016 in North America and Europe. This is the second highest total on record and 84% of the deals were executed by strategic buyers.

Companies with lots of cash on their balance sheets and are now willing to deploy some of it to pursue larger deals that move the needle on revenue. Traditionally, companies can use their money to invest in organic growth, dividends for shareholders, or in acquisitions. In today’s environment, M&A makes the most sense for firms who have the cash and need to quickly spur growth.

In addition, strategics are not constrained by the same investment criteria as financial buyers like private equity firms. They can afford to pay more up front since they plan to hold onto the newly acquired company for long-term growth. On the other hand, private equity buyers are typically looking for return on their investment in three to five years.

Over the past week we’ve seen a number of interesting acquisitions by strategic acquirers, including Berkshire Hathaway’s $1 billion investment in Apple. And Pfizer’s purchase of Anacor Pharmaceuticals for $5.2 billion after its $152 billion merger with Allergan fell apart last month.

 

Photo Credit: Bill Damon via Flickr cc

Last week, thousands of investors gathered at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha. Warren Buffett, perhaps one of the greatest strategic acquirers, shared his insights for successful acquisitions. There are two pearls of Buffett wisdom, reported direct from the meeting by Dealbook that I’d like to highlight in this post.

Looking at the Big Picture

Buffett insists that the most important thing isn’t negotiating every fine point of a deal, but being right on the broader prospects of the potential takeover target.

I can confirm this from my own experience as an M&A advisor. Far too often I see company leaders getting caught up in the minutiae of a deal. While details do matter, the success of your acquisition doesn’t lie in the technicalities. You can get every detail exactly right, but if you acquire the wrong company, your acquisition is doomed to failure.

Think about buying a car that’s the exact shade of blue you want, but the transmission has been trashed! Or imagine purchasing your “dream home” that’s located in the wrong state. No matter what color the car, or how beautiful the house, neither is a good purchase when you take in the whole picture. If you’re getting bogged down in the weeds, take a step back and look at your strategic objectives.

Evaluating Future Demand

According to Buffett, “The mistakes [in mergers and acquisitions] are always about making an improper assessment of the economic future.”

When talking about is erroneous analysis of future demand for the product line of the business you’re about to acquire.

Understanding future demand is critical, because without demand for its products and services, any business risks becoming obsolete. So when you think about acquiring a company, consider what the market will look like in 5 or 10 years. Who will the customers be? What will be the demand for these kinds of products or services? Is this sector shrinking or growing? Without taking the market dynamics into consideration, you risk acquiring a dud.

These two points from Buffett may seem simple, but it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a deal or to over-focus on the details. Remember to take a step back and assess the entire situation, taking into account your own strategic goals and future demand. Evaluating an opportunity with this broader perspective will help increase your chances of a successful deal.

Photo credit: Fortune Live Media via Flickr cc

Reflecting the growth of ecommerce, shoe retailer DSW will acquire Ebuys, Inc., the company announced on February 17.  At $62 million, the acquisition may seem tiny compared to such newsmakers as Sysco’s $3.1 billion deal to acquire Brakes Group or IBM’s $2.6 billion deal to acquire Truven Health Analytics. But there are opportunities to learn from this transaction.

DSW, which stands for Discount Show Warehouse, has 469 stores in the U.S and Puerto Rico and is known for low pricing on brand-name shoes and accessories. Ebuys also sells shoes and accessories to North America, Europe Australia and Asia through the retail sites ShoeMetro and ApparelSave. DSW will use the acquisition to increase its online presence and expand abroad.

Although bigger deals draw greater attention, companies often use smaller, more targeted acquisitions to grow strategically. Especially in the middle market, the value of many deals isn’t disclosed and the deals may not even announced. Businesses often like to move stealthily and keep their strategic plans hidden from the competition.

Strategic Rationale

An analysis of this deal with our opportunity matrix shows that it is built upon distribution – selling the same products to new markets. With Ebuys, DSW will continue to sell shoes, footwear and accessories but find new customers internationally and online outside of their traditional retail space. Looking at trends in the retail space – and quite frankly in any space – the rise of technology is here to stay. Customers, especially millennials, use the internet increasingly to research and purchase products. Rather than risk becoming obsolete like brick-and-mortar bookstores driven out of business by Amazon, retailers such as DSW must adapt to changes in market demand and increase their ecommerce capabilities.

Opportunity for More

There is more to this deal, in that Ebuys has the opportunity to earn future payments. Also known as earnouts, these are commonly used in acquisitions as a means of bridging the valuation gap between buyers and sellers. Sellers naturally have high expectations for their businesses, often called hockey stick projections, that buyers might disagree with. With earnouts, the seller will receive a future payment once they hit certain milestones. In addition to the $62.5 billion DSW will pay today for its acquisition, if Ebuys achieves the financial goals set forth in the acquisition agreement, it will have the opportunity to earn more.

With future payments, buyers are in essence saying to sellers “We love your business and want to see you achieve your projections, so prove it to us. If you do, we’ll pay you more.” This way, if the seller’s positive projections turn out to be true, the seller will be rewarded, but the buyer doesn’t risk losing money on growth that never materializes.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr cc

In light of recent FTC rulings against market domination, Sysco has changed its M&A strategy to focus on smaller, strategic deals rather than large transformative deals. Although Sysco’s change is motivated by regulatory obstacles to larger acquisitions, using strategic, smaller deals is an excellent approach from a strategic perspective. We have long recommended that our clients pursue a series of small transactions to achieve their long-term growth goals. We call this strategy taking “frequent small bites of the apple” because it’s much easier to eat an apple one bite at a time than to cram the whole fruit into your mouth!

Among the advantages of pursuing a series of smaller deals:

1. Focus on One Reason

You may have many needs to meet before you reach your long-term growth goals, for instance improving talent and technological capabilities and expanding geographically. If your vision is growing into a worldwide paint manufacturer and distributor, but you only have manufacturing operations on the East Coast, you will need to expand geographically, build your distribution networks, and perhaps improve on your manufacturing capabilities. Doing all this with only one company may dilute your efforts, or you might acquire a company that really doesn’t fulfill any of your strategic needs.  A better approach: first focus on acquiring a company with an excellent distribution network in the U.S and then another company with quality manufacturing capabilities that match your acquisition criteria. Once you’ve adjusted to this change, you might look at acquisitions outside the U.S.

2. Stay Below the Radar

Large transactions draw attention, especially the mega-deals valued at over $5 billion that have boosted M&A value to record levels. But many transactions are much smaller than these multi-billion dollar deals; in the U.S. from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015 there were 12,663 M&A transactions, according to Factset data. 95% of these deals were under $500 million or undisclosed. (Undisclosed deals are typically privately held, smaller transactions that are too small for financial reporting). Smaller strategic transactions allow you to make moves below the radar, out of sight of your competition.

4 reasons why smaller acquisitions are better

3. Adjust to Integration Challenges More Easily

Even the most carefully planned acquisition encounters integration challenges as people and systems adjust to the newly merged company. By acquiring a smaller company, you dramatically limit your integration challenges. Once you’ve had time to work out any kinks and make sure your new company is operating smoothly, you can begin pursuing the next acquisition.

4. Minimize Risk of Acquisition Failure

Although acquisitions are inherently a risky undertaking, smaller strategic transactions are much less risky than large transformative deals. Because integration challenges are minimized, you can remain focused on your strategic objectives, increasing your chances of realizing synergies from the deal. There’s also less financial risk associated with smaller acquisitions; you can minimize capital outlays while rapidly growing your company to reach your long-term goals.

Executing a series of strategic acquisitions is a proven way for middle market companies to grow.

A small deal is also ideal for first-time acquirers who have never pursued growth through mergers and acquisitions. All in all, smaller acquisitions allow you to remain focused, move covertly in the market, and increase your chances of success while still rapidly moving you closer to your vision for the future.

Photo credit: UnknownNet Photography via Flickr cc

Credit unions’ traditional use of consolidation as one way to grow is a trend likely to rise over the next five years, according to industry experts. While the percentage of these deals climbs, there actually are fewer mergers because there are fewer credit unions. There were 4% fewer credit unions in September 2015 than one year earlier, according to CU Data.

Credit Union mergers and consolidation.

Credit union consolidation continues.

Given their decreasing numbers, credit unions pursuing growth will need to consider alternatives ways to grow such as strategic mergers and acquisitions, a common strategy used in the for-profit world. Strategic M&A for credit unions may be motivated by distribution — offering existing products and services to new markets, members or geographies —or breadth — adding new products or services for their existing members. This important tool can generate noninterest income and allow credit unions to create unique value for their members.

At the CUES Directors Conference, Capstone CEO David Braun presented a workshop on Strategic Mergers & Acquisitions for Credit Unions, where he challenged credit union leaders to think creatively to generate new ideas for growth. At this standing-room only session, credit union leaders discussed the increasing importance of strategic mergers and acquisitions for their organizations and for the credit union industry as a whole.

CUES David Braun Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions 2015

David Braun presented a workshop “Grow or Die: Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions for Credit Unions” at the CUES Directors Conference in Orlando Florida on December 8, 2015

Feature photo credit: Opensource.com via Flickr cc

As we near the end of the fourth quarter, everyone is wondering what will happen in 2016. Will the frenzied M&A activity of 2015 continue into the new year?

There seem to be mixed reviews on what activity will look like next year. The Intralinks deal flow predictor indicates a 7% increase in global M&A in Q1 2016, but Mergers & Acquisitions Magazine has been citing a downward trend in the middle market for the past few months.

On the other hand, on a recent Deal Webcast “2016 Middle Market Outlook,” dealmakers were a bit more hopeful, expecting to see activity continue due to the high levels of dry powder and capital on the sidelines, while they did admit there may be a slight downturn.

The lending environment will be similar in 2016 to what it was in 2015 and in the middle market private equity will continue to be highly competitive, according to Michael Fanelli of RSM.

Healthcare and Technology Will Dominate

The Affordable Care Act brought about widespread changes to the healthcare industry, spurring a wave of mega-mergers by massive pharmaceutical companies. Despite this wave of mega-deals, for the most part much of the uncertainty surrounding ACA seems to have worked its way out of the middle-market companies. Tim Alexander of Harris Williams says that by and large, healthcare has become less of a due diligence item for dealmakers, especially those in the upper middle market.

On the other hand, in the lower middle market, the ACA may still raise some red flags, especially for businesses with part-time employees or ones that don’t have healthcare plans at all. While some sellers may have thought about the impacts of ACA, many are waiting to begin talks with a buyer before engaging professionals to deal with these issues, according to Fanelli.

The focus on healthcare is not only due to changes brought about from the Affordable Care Act, but is also indicative of a larger health and wellness trend we’re seeing in the U.S. Expect shakeups in the consumer and food and beverage spaces as people focus on healthier, organic specialty products.

As for technology, there’s plenty of disruption that will continue over the next one to two years, with a constant flow of innovative startups. This continuing trend will have its own impact on the middle market.

The U.S. Middle Market Remains Strong

For the most part, all three dealmakers agreed that middle market M&A is much stronger in the U.S. than it is cross-border or internationally. Most investors see the U.S. as the locale where they can expect their highest returns. This regional focus is not unique to the middle market: In the first 9 months of 2015, the U.S. accounted for 47% of global M&A transactions ($1.5 trillion).

Engaging with Sellers Remains Critical

When it comes to deal-making, building a connection with the owner and sharing your strategic vision remain the critical starting points. There are numerous reasons why an owner may decide to go with a financial buyer over a strategic buyer, even though technically strategic buyers should have an advantage from a cash perspective. In our experience, the same has been true (less money for strategic acquisition vs. financial). What it comes down to is really understanding the owner’s priorities and what he or she wants out of an acquisition. Hint: It’s not always more money.

As Marc Utay of Clarion Capital Partners said, echoing one of our key principles: “Price is important, but not the most important thing. It [the company] is like a child to them.”

 

Credit union consolidations are on the rise in 2015, continuing a trend from previous years. There were 14% fewer credit unions in March 2015 than there were in March 2010, according to data from CUDATA.com. As credit unions consolidate, the number of smaller credit unions is decreasing while the number of large credit unions between $100-$500 million and over $500 million in size is increasing.

Credit union consolidation continues. There were about 14% fewer credit unions in March 2015 than March 2010.

Credit union consolidation continues. There were about 14% fewer credit unions in March 2015 than March 2010.

With all the M&A activity, it’s no surprise M&A remains a key topic of interest for credit unions leaders. Earlier this week John Dearing, Managing Director, presented “Strategic Mergers & Acquisitions: Exploring External Growth” at the Credit Union Services and Products Conference hosted by CU Conferences in Nashville, Tennessee. About 70 executives and board members of credit unions participated in this interactive session.

John’s presentation not only covered current trends in credit union M&A, but also explored how credit unions can use strategic options in addition to consolidation when growing through M&A. These could include adding a new technology or expanding into a new market order to grow.

Below are some pictures from the conference.

John and Don Berra, hosts of CU Conferences.

John and Don Berra, hosts of CU Conferences.

John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, presented "Strategic Mergers & Acquisitions: Exploring External Growth" at the Credit Union Services and Products Conference in Nashville.

John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, presented “Strategic Mergers & Acquisitions: Exploring External Growth” at the Credit Union Services and Products Conference in Nashville.

Participants at the Credit Union Services and Products Conference hosted by CU Conferences in Nashville, Tennessee.

Participants at the Credit Union Services and Products Conference hosted by CU Conferences in Nashville, Tennessee.

Enjoying local music.

Enjoying local music.

Nashville at night: The Grand Ole Opry

Nashville at night: The Grand Ole Opry

 

By now, many of you will have heard of Berkshire Hathaway’s $37.2 billion acquisition of Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC), an aerospace parts manufacturer. The acquisition is Berkshire Hathaway’s largest to-date which goes to show with each strategic acquisition, Berkshire Hathaway must make bigger and bigger deals to “move the needle.”

Strategic and to the Point

The straightforward nature of the deal’s press release is particularly refreshing and reflective of Warren Buffett’s overall attitude toward strategic acquisitions.

“I’ve admired PCC’s operations for a long time. For good reasons, it is the suppler of choice for the world’s aerospace industry, one of the largest sources of American exports,” said Warren Buffet.

Mark Donegan, PCC’s chairman and chief executive officer stated: “We see a unique alignment between Warren’s management and investment philosophy and how we manage PCC for the long-term.”

You can read the full press release here.

You’ll notice there are no flowery words or long-winded paragraphs in the press release, unlike the now infamous AOL-Time Warner deal. As I’ve stated before on this blog and in my book, at Capstone, we are big proponents of having only ONE reason for acquisition. Having a simple, clear, strategic path forward leads to success. On the other hand, pursuing many reasons makes the deal unnecessarily complicated and unfocused.

Finding Growth through M&A

Warren Buffett’s latest acquisition reflects the overall trend in the market – M&A is the pathway to growth. Dealogic data reports $2.63 trillion in deals as of August 3, perhaps the most robust year yet. The Wall Street Journal notes, robust M&A “…has been driven largely by companies buying others to drive growth at a time when earnings increases aren’t easy to achieve.”

Organic growth options are anemic or stagnant at best, forcing companies to seriously consider M&A to drive growth. In today’s market, businesses cannot be content to sit on the side lines and go about business as usual. They should take a careful look at all of their growth options – including acquisitions – and determine the best path forward based on a strategic, proactive approach. Those who fail to move now and consider their strategy for growth will be unfortunately be left behind.

Photo Credit: xlibber via Flickr cc

I decided to answer a very basic, but important question about M&A, given that we often talk about strategic acquisitions.

Q: What’s the difference between a financial and a strategic buyer?

A: A financial buyer brings little inherent value to the transaction. Typically they bring capital and capital allocation knowledge, but usually no specific knowledge about the technology, application, or customers of the seller.

On the other hand, strategic buyers do have specialized knowledge about a particular market or product that will add value to the transaction, or what we call “synergies.” Synergies typically come in two forms – cost reduction or increasing revenues. Acquisitions that bring real value are focused on the revenue growth side rather than on cost-cutting. You can only cut costs once, but done right you can continue to grow revenue for years to come.

For example, although a strategic acquirer may be able to cut costs by consolidating overhead and admin expenses, that hopefully is not the only reason for the acquisition! It might be that the seller’s technology is complementary to the buyer’s and can be used to grow market share through cross-selling. In a recent example, Verizon just closed on its acquisition of AOL for its mobile advertising technology. Verizon is a huge mobile carrier and has expertise with mobile phones and an understanding of the technology and business. Adding mobile advertising is another way it can increase revenues with its current customer mix, especially as more and more people acquire smartphones.

For strategic acquirers, the focus of the acquisition should be on long-term growth for the entire business. Most strategic acquirers will buy a company and keep it rather than sell it after a few years to make a profit, as private equity groups tend to do.

Credit unions have in the past year or so embraced strategic mergers and acquisitions with fervor. This was especially evident at the CUES Execu/Summit I spoke at last week.

While strategic M&A in the credit union industry is not new, I’m excited about the enthusiasm that now surrounds the topic.

Capstone has been active in the industry facilitating deals and developing strategic growth plans for over 10 years.

When we began working with credit unions in 2003, we found strategic M&A was on fewer people’s radars and that fewer credit union leaders understood the advantages of or even considered strategic mergers and acquisitions. Now, pressed by regulatory changes and marketplace dynamics, the tide is changing. I for one am very excited to see what new opportunities will become available as a result of embracing strategic deals.

Capstone CEO and author David Braun will present “Grow or Die: Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions” at the CUES Execu/Summit on March 3, 2015 at Snowmass, Colorado.

CUES is a leading organization dedicated to educating credit union professionals, directors and suppliers. About 80-90 executives and board members from the credit union industry will attend the Execu/Summit to hear from top experts and learn about critical issues facing credit union leaders today.

Mergers and acquisitions is especially a hot topic and many of these leaders have specifically requested more information about strategic M&A.

We are excited to be participating in this conference.

Capstone has over 10 years of experience working with credit union and credit union service organization clients. David will draw upon this expertise to offer industry-specific applications of M&A.

“I’m excited to challenge credit union leaders to think about a new way to grow – by using strategic mergers and acquisitions,” he said. “At Capstone, our mission is to help companies grow and I’m happy to equip leaders with practical skills that they can take back to their organizations and start implementing in their strategic growth plans.”

John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, was asked to write an op-ed for the Credit Union Times about the ways that credit unions can find additional sources of non-interest income. I’ve included part of John’s article below:

Every industry faces change and the credit union industry is no different. Market developments and new regulations are challenging credit unions to find new sources of non-interest income in order to grow.

While it can be difficult to thrive or even survive in an unstable environment, change also brings opportunity. One option for credit unions is using strategic mergers and acquisitions.

I invite you to continue reading the article the Credit Union Times’s focus report on non-interest income: Using Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions to Adapt.

Family Dollar and Dollar Tree finally have reached a deal to merge for $8.5 billion. This merger comes after months of negotiations between Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

Family Dollar and Dollar Tree originally came to an agreement last July, but Dollar General quickly stepped in with a higher offer. Interestingly, although Dollar General offered a higher price at $9.1 billion, Family Dollar chose to merge with Dollar Tree due to regulatory concerns. Family Dollar also said merging with Dollar General would require it to divest of 3,500 to 4,500 stores.

Although these negotiations between some of the biggest names in low-cost retail have been exciting news for the public, they were probably more anxiety-inducing for Dollar Tree. It’s not so fun to watch your competitor swoop in and nearly take your acquisition after you’ve worked hard to put together a deal.

This is another reason why private, not-for-sale transactions can be advantageous. You have less risk that your competitors will pursue the same deal because the company is not-for-sale and there are fewer chances that they’ll find out about it until the deal’s done.

Like many of our clients, you may choose not to publicly announce the acquisition. Keeping the deal under wraps helps you maintain stealth in the marketplace and guard your strategic plan.

Photo Credit: Generic Brand Productions via Compfight cc

If you’re strategic acquirer, 2015 will be a good year for you.

In 2014 we started to see companies, especially strategic acquirers be more aggressive about M&A. This likely will continue and even accelerate in 2015, especially since many still have a record amount of cash on their balance sheets.

US Mergers and Acquisitions 2014

While we’ve had a pretty significant growth in deal value over the past year (50%), the number of deals has only increased 8%. Average deal size has increase significantly by 39% when compared to 2013 values. This is sort of a caution flag out there for folks to say, “Let’s be careful about overpaying.”

Part of the challenge for strategic acquirers in 2015 will be weighing the cost of overpaying against the consequence of not being involved in some of these deals. While there is no reason to be alarmed, strategic buyers should pay attention to multiples in the coming year.

Despite this, there is still opportunity for strategic buyers. In the last quarter of 2014, we continued to see a decline in the capital raised and the number of deals closed by private equity firms.

US PE Deal Flow 2014

This is all good news if you’re a strategic acquirer because it means less competition. In addition, you should be seeing more strategic value in the form of synergies primarily around cost savings.

Are you unusually busy? If you’re like most people the answer is yes! With the holiday season upon us, we are most of us inundated with commitments to work, family and friends.

While it might be easy to get caught up in the bustle of the season, I recommend pausing to plan your growth path for the New Year if you haven’t already done so.

Envision the big picture first. What are your long-term growth goals? We always encourage our clients to think about their dreams. Don’t be afraid to dream big for your company. Once you’ve defined the vision, you can break it down into manageable pieces such as specific goals for 2015 or goals for the next five years.

Plan out actionable items — initiatives you will undertake to accomplish each goal — and then identify and assemble the necessary resources. Each initiative should bring you one step closer to your growth objectives. You don’t have to have all the answers right now, and your plans may change, but this will help you stay focused and organized next year.

Of course, you may be well ahead of the curve with your strategic planning. But in case you haven’t begun planning for 2015, now is your chance to think about your next stage of growth before 2014 comes to a close.

Have a question about leadership and strategic planning? Contact us today.

With a 70% failure rate for acquisitions, it seems like the odds are against you from the beginning. Before you get scared off, however, let’s take a closer look at what that 70% means.

The 70% failure rate is mainly based on large, publicly traded transactions because large transactions must be reported to the SEC, and information on public companies is generally available. In addition, these large transactions tend to make the news more often since people are fascinated by massive deals involving well-known brands.

Despite this focus on large acquisitions, there are hundreds of smaller, unreported transactions involving middle-market companies and privately held businesses.

We call these types of deals “taking small bites of the apple.” Instead of huge, transformative deals, which tend to be a bit difficult to swallow, smaller, strategic acquisitions achieve a higher rate of success.

Acquisitions are a powerful tool for sparking growth and may be the only way for you to reach your goals. Acquiring smaller companies does not completely eliminate your risk, but conducting multiple, smaller acquisitions, enables you to take manageable steps to executing your growth strategy.

As with any business initiative, you must take some risk to reap the rewards. Following a carefully planned strategy and a proven process will help minimize your risk and optimize the success of your acquisition.