Online extra: Frog...frog...frog...Prince!

Pucker up and land your dream deal

Kissing frogs. That's how Michael Solley and other industry executives describe the process of identifying and selecting a company to buy. You've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.

Solley was previously an executive with Nichols Research Corp. and MTC Technologies Inc., and now is president of NCI Information Systems. He's been involved in 15 deals, and he's looking for more. Here's Solley's description of the courtship process.

Teasers. These are one-page documents that brokers fax or e-mail to potential buyers. Sometimes these are phone calls and verbal descriptions. Moving forward from here is much like going on a blind date. Most executives look at one to two teasers a week, and up to 100 a year.

Books. These are detailed descriptions of a company, and they usually require a non-disclosure agreement. This step is skipped sometimes if the acquisition target is familiar or is not represented by a broker. It can take hours, even days, to review a book. Executives see one to three a month, up to 30 a year.

Management meetings and presentations. This is the start of due diligence. These meetings can take a few hours or be stretched out over weeks. Executives take part in two to four each quarter, and up to 15 a year.

Initial due diligence. A team of four to six people may spend a few days to a week examining a company before moving on to the next step. Count on one or two each quarter.

Detailed due diligence. This process can take weeks to a few months as the acquisition target is examined more thoroughly. There may be one or two of these each quarter, and up to six a year.

Closings. This final step can take a few days to a couple of weeks. Part of the document preparation process can be done in parallel with the due diligence. An executive may land one or two per year.

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