High-performing acquirers are consistently successful because they have organized and institutionalized their M&A functions to create discipline around the four deal decisions. Building an M&A capability involves four critical tasks:
- Build a core deal team that works hand in hand with the line management to identify, screen, close and integrate deals. That allows the company both to proactively create opportunities that are consistent with the strategy and to strike rapidly when the right deal becomes available.
- Get line expertise involved early, in all parts of the process, from the decision to acquire, to the estimationof synergies, to the integration itself. Ensure that the line managers buy into the deal and understand what they're acquiring, long before the deal is done. Hold them accountable for long-term results.
- Create a playbook. Buying companies should never be an ad hoc process. Devise clear guidelines for the purchase and integration of acquired companies. Find ways to capture the knowledge learned from each acquisition.
- Kill deal fever. Companies often get so caught up in the excitement of the deal that they forge ahead in spite of signs that the acquisition is flawed. To avoid that pitfall, insist on high-level and line-management approvals for deals, and put in place a decision-making process that clearly delineates who in the company recommends deals, whose input should be solicited, and who ultimately decides yea or nay. Use the compensation system to prevent people from pushing dubious deals; tie rewards to the long-term success of the business rather than deal completion. Most important, set a walk-away price and be prepared to do exactly that—walk away.
Committing the talent and time needed to organize for deal making allows companies to quickly develop M&A expertise, make decisions with dispassionate discipline and swing the odds of deal success in their favor.