Keep an Open Mind during M&A Negotiations


A prominent competitor approached our consulting firm saying that they were potentially interested in acquiring us.  At the time, we viewed ourselves as the acquirers rather than the acquired.  But we saw the situation as a learning opportunity so we met with the leaders of the larger firm. The process shined a light on holes in our strategic and staffing plans.  That didn’t feel very good at the time, but it was a huge favor.  The process also helped us understand the value of our innovation and I.P.  Very important partner level discussions were sparked for us by our interaction with the larger competitor. Although we turned down their acquisition offer we remained convinced that we hadn’t wasted one minute going through the process.  It was very illuminating.

A few current clients are led by Baby Boomer aged owners. We are encouraging them to engage in exploratory conversations with their counterparts in related companies.  Over the years we have discovered that a maximum of six conversations are needed to finalize a new relationship (merger, acquisition, joint venture, subcontracting, etc).  And we encourage our clients to have a minimum of two discussions so they remain open minded. The conversations serve multiple purposes…learning, surfacing opportunities, imaging the future taking a different form, etc. The conversations often start with a meeting over breakfast at a diner in a neutral location.  There is no reason to prematurely alert employees or customers to the fact that they are talking with one another.

For one of our clients, the initial diner conversations between complementary firms sounded like a merger might be possible, but the proposed terms that resulted looked more like an acquisition or asset purchase. The younger owners of one firm had jumped to the conclusion that the older owners of the other firm were ready to retire.  Talk about illuminating!  The acquisition won’t be happening this year, but the door has been left open to reconsider later.  In the meantime the “older owners” came away from the negotiations with renewed commitment to their business and determination to raise their prices, upgrade their technology platform, and fill a job vacancy. The fact that a competitor viewed them as “ready to retire” and “no longer viable” was the wakeup call they needed.

Are you initiating conversations with the leaders of complementary businesses to explore strategic alliances, joint ventures, acquisitions, mergers, or roll ups? And when you do meet with peers, are you staying open minded enough (not focusing on the punch line) so you can learn? Surprisingly, the process can surface ways to improve profitability, candidates for key positions, client or project opportunities, or growth financing.


Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at

About Aldonna Ambler:
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna Ambler built and grew a suite of companies to help midsized B2B companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability® A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Ambler has addressed over 2000 audiences and hosted a syndicated online talk show about growth strategies for 9 years. As a growth financing intermediary, Ambler raised over $1 Bil dollars for midsized companies. The winner of over 2 dozen prestigious national and statewide "entrepreneur of the year" awards, Ambler is available to speak about “profitable growth during any economy” and/or serve on the board of a growth-oriented privately-held company.

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