7 stumbling blocks to M&A success

Clashing business development cultures can spell disaster

Mergers and acquisitions continue to remake the government contracting market, fueled by shifting landscapes in defense spending, procurement modifications and competitive pressures. Smaller acquisitions are becoming more prevalent than the larger, scale-driven transactions of previous years.

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In the frenzy to transform via mergers and acquisitions, significant issues might be overlooked in the haste to get smaller deals done. There are seven significant stumbling blocks to achieving growth objectives after a merger or acquisition. Overlooking any one of them could adversely affect a firm’s long-term growth.

1. M&A Strategy

Was the decision to expand based on a desire to chase shifting budget and procurement priorities? Or does a long-term strategy exist that includes adding expertise to your capabilities from firms in adjacent markets? The latter approach could bolster your market position by offering customers a comprehensive, integrated suite of products and services.

2. Qualitative vs. Quantitative Due Diligence

Due diligence means more than merely crunching numbers; it involves qualitative as well as quantitative information gathering. Take the time to evaluate the target company’s business development leadership and team from a potential and historical perspective, and assess the resident quality and capability of the entire business development organization. Is it mostly organic-growth farmers and few, if any, new-business hunters? You want to find a well-balanced, cohesive team that is working a real pipeline of opportunities with a high win rate.

3. Divergent Business Development Cultures: Push vs. Pull

Does your potential merger partner have a “push boxes” culture — that is, are products/services pressed on customers to solve any conceivable problem? Or does the business development team seek out customer issues and then decide if the opportunity is a good match for what the firm offers? The first position indicates a traditional sales, or push, culture. The second illustrates a customer-centric culture in which customers rely on your expertise, pull you into a discussion of their situation and trust you to help them solve their problems.

4. Differing Structures for Business Development Organizations

Does your potential acquisition have a centralized business development organization, a business development capability embedded in the business units or a hybrid of the two? Does the current structure mesh with yours or will the combination add a layer of complexity to what already exists at your firm? Acquisitions frequently result in combined entities with independent organizations hoarding resources and critical intelligence while dissipating the efficiencies and operational synergies you’ve banked on for the combined organization.

5. Disparate Business Development Plans

Business plans are not the same as business development plans. If business development plans exist at the potential acquisition, are they outdated and unachievable in the current circumstances? In addition to a business development strategy, what you want to see are road maps that chart how to reach concrete revenue objectives in the current business climate and have buy-in from the entire business development team.

6. Diverse and Outdated Business Development Processes

The government contracting world has changed. If business development processes exist at your potential merger partner, does everyone use them and is there proof of their effectiveness? Could you be acquiring a business development organization that’s committed to outdated processes and shuns anything new? In that situation, even if the team is struggling, members will likely reject any solid business case to change what they are doing.

7. Strong Business Development Leadership

Does your potential acquisition have strong business development leaders who model effective behavior, take ownership of plans, drive processes and lead personnel to reach revenue objectives? Or is everyone reluctant to challenge the status quo, embrace new ways of developing business and risk something different in this changed environment? If so, one of your first initiatives should be to find strong business development leaders to fill that vacuum. A good business development leader will serve as the catalyst to jump-start revenue growth and achieve the numbers you expect after the merger.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at or 704.553.0000.

Reader Comments

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 Joyce Bosc Boscobel Marketing Communications, Inc.

Companies should also apply the same due diligence and analysis of all the departments such as human resources, finance, legal, marketing and operations. M&A success also depends on a comprehensive Internal Communications Program to elicit support from executives, middle management and employees before, during and after the transaction. The quality, quantity, timing and content of communications among these parties is what makes or breaks the deal.

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