Off-Road M&A: The New Techniques Required for Getting Deals Done in Difficult Markets

If the M&A landscape were a roadscape, what would it look like? One guess, and it’s not the uncluttered lazy freeway, top down, cruise control on, glinting Ray Bans, easy conversation and relaxed music of old.


26 September 2013

M&A truck

If the M&A landscape were a roadscape, what would it look like? One guess, and it’s not the uncluttered lazy freeway, top down, cruise control on, glinting Ray Bans, easy conversation and relaxed music of old. That smooth blacktop has lulled you into a false sense of security. Those shock absorbers have flattened out the bumps and you have tortured those pneumatic tires into squealing with delight.

The M&A roadscape we live in
No, the roadscape today would be utterly transformed. It would resemble the first caught-by-surprise day of fog and ice. Cars would be abandoned all over the place. Hoods would be up. Warning lights on. Exit ramps would be blocked. Bedraggled folk would be wandering around in a daze. Cars still running would be driven nervously, with their drivers looking for obstacles in front of them and any chance of a clear exit. The drivers of today are haggard and bleary-eyed, straining to understand the road ahead.

How to drive in today’s M&A market
My policy is always to turn off the freeway at the first sign of trouble ahead. Once you are backed up, the only way out is by Chinook helicopter. Dream on.

This simple policy gave rise to a whole new way of thinking about M&A in today’s markets. The smart way to get deals done is to be in the mud, not in a jam.

Yes, get off road and find a new and probably less travelled route to your destination. It will be bumpy. It will have its dangers. But you know what, you are still in control. You are making it happen, unlike the schmucks stuck in the jam. Frankly in my opinion, getting stuck in the mud is much more honest. It is scary, but far more appealing than waiting another 5 years for the freeway to return to normal. And maybe it never will. Face it - this could be the new normal.

So look around. Think hard. You will have to abandon all the superfluous process trappings. You will have to devise something as you go along. You will have to invent the process. Here’s the good news. The destination is the still same - the successful completion of the transaction.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll share two rules of the road I live by to help you maintain control of the M&A roadscape ahead.