How would you characterise your approach to M&A?
I have a unique background that combines experience as an international sportsman, sales and marketing in a large corporate, a strategy consultant and real life experience from planning and delivering post-merger integration from start to finish across the whole deal cycle for two decades.
I’m also a guest speaker at a number of the world’s top business schools on strategy and M&A and a Programme Director at Henley Business School for M&A. This background means I understand the theory, but combine it with a proven ability to deliver M&A integration and large transformations in highly complex organisations.
Where does strategy fit in?
M&A integration starts with the strategic planning months before a deal takes place. In fact it is the start for the deal team. What will we do with this company? How will we run it? Where can we make improvements? How will we increase our profit?
These strategic questions must be answered before we think about doing a deal. They play into the synergies and thus the valuation. It is these things that must be planned in growing detail as we move towards doing our deal.
It’s all in the planning, from strategic high level and motoring downwards towards the detail. These 100-day plans (as we call them in M&A) are the backbone of delivery of a new business, new strategic entity, the synergies and people to run the business going forward.
What’s your view on the relationship between strategy as an academic discipline and in business?
I don’t believe there is a gap, but there is a time lag in M&A and M&A strategy. As a leading professional I can come up with a great new idea tomorrow, try it out, or develop it through the delivery of a deal when I am integration director. If good, this idea may be taken up by other consultants and other companies, moving strategy and the world forward. For a top-notch academic paper to be written many companies must have implemented the idea for there to be enough data to analyse statistically.
Thus a time lag opens, between the practitioner using the new ideas and the academic researching them and delivering results. But, and it a big but, this academic research can then be used by many thousands of companies to move themselves forward, using tried and trusted (potentially proven) techniques and knowledge in the M&A field – provided by the academics. As a side shoot, each academic paper then provides areas of interest, where more research should be carried out, thus kicking-off new ideas for the practitioner to utilise. The circle, though not perfect, is completed. Both practitioners and academics are useful in their own manner, both moving forward strategy, planning and the delivery of both.
Why did you write your new book?
Most firms of a certain size will turn to M&A in their search for growth at some point, forcing almost all managers to face up to the challenge of integration. For many managers it is often their first, and only time and M&A is high on the list of things that managers hate. According to many studies, 50-75% M&A transactions turn out to be a failure. One of the main reasons for failure is late integration or bad integration management. There is a significant demand for more information on best practice in post-merger integration.
My book demonstrates how to handle the post-merger integration process and show how to restructure, consolidate, reduce costs, create efficiencies and perform M&A, from smaller transactions to mega-mergers. The focus is on integration planning and delivery. It combines a general/strategic view with detailed information of how to actually conduct a post-merger integration via practical tools and checklists that will prove essential in delivering change before, during and after transactions as well as to ensure their success.