Pick What You Want—and Go for It
"Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
That's the challenge that Steve Jobs laid down before John Sculley when he offered the PepsiCo executive the CEO spot at Apple in 1983. Jobs was urging Sculley to get specific about the vision of the future he wanted for himself, and motivating him in that way turned out to be a huge win for everyone. In his 10 years in the role, Sculley took Apple's sales from $800 million to $8 billion.
There's a lesson here for owners who have decided to grow their printing or packaging companies through strategic acquisitions. Knowing from the get-go exactly what you want to accomplish by purchasing another firm puts you in a winning frame of mind and increases the acquisition's likelihood of success. At New Direction Partners, we know that when a prospective buyer comes to us with a clear picture of the kind of company he or she wants to buy, we can zero in that much more quickly on candidates that will be complementary or accretive to the buyer's present business.
As a buyer, you may see an acquisition as a shortcut to gaining a production capability you don't have or to creating a footprint in a territory where you don't currently operate. Your decision may be driven by a wish to better support certain key customers. Or, you may simply want to add sales volume that you can't achieve organically. Whatever the motivation, the more detail you can give your M&A advisor about how you expect an acquisition to serve your purpose, the straighter the path to the desired outcome will be.
Example: a client of ours in the Southeast had some major accounts in an adjoining state that could be difficult to service because of the distance involved. The buyer's idea was to acquire a satellite plant in that area with exactly the type of equipment that would be needed to run the customers' jobs locally. He gave us a complete set of machinery specs—make, model, format size, number of colors, coater type, and so on—to use as a search criterion. We found a company with just such equipment, but the benefits of the acquisition didn't end there. The buyer also picked up an additional $6.5 million worth of business in accounts from the seller that now belonged to him.