Do Buyers really know what Sellers want when being acquired?

March 3rd, 2013

Reasons to Sell

There are many good reasons for selling a staffing firm. Some sellers are thinking about retirement or at least liquefying what is often their largest asset so they can take some chips off the table. Others may feel they have grown the business as much as they can on their own and to reach the next level for their business they will need a well-suited, deep-pocketed partner.

 Some owners as they age become more risk averse and are reluctant to continue to invest their retirement funds to grow their business. Additionally, there are some owners that would prefer to tap into an acquirers’ existing infrastructure and distribution network then try to create their own.

 Other drivers are the lack of available, reasonably priced growth capital, the lack of reasonably priced insurance protection, access to certain volume purchasers of staffing services through VMS or other purchasing methods that can dictate lower margins and less direct customer contact on a staffing supplier.

 These are the general reasons that motivate Sellers. What are the specific reasons that may encourage a Seller to choose your firm?

 Why sell to you?

Certainly a high purchase price, with 50%-70% cash on closing and a good upside potential for growth will be huge plus factors for a seller to consider. 

Sellers prefer notes for the balance especially if they are not active or not remaining with the business. Buyers generally prefer earn outs if the owners are staying on, to share the risk going forward. Since many current transactions contain earn outs, why would a buyer want to create an environment that impairs the seller’s ability to improve profits?

 A wise Seller will look most seriously at the Buyer who offers their business the best opportunity to continue to succeed as they have thus far.

It may be surprising that a wise Seller will often choose his acquirer by his/her determination of which acquirer will create the least amount of internal and external changes. Changes mean uncertainty and sometimes disruption that can add to the risk of success for both buyer and seller. Change also increases the need for communication so staff members can be sold on the benefits of the change.

In fact, an acquirer would do well to avoid any change that is not absolutely necessarily by law and slowly introduce other “branding” type changes on a scale that the acquired staff can handle without a loss of staff or business.

It is always interesting to see Buyers rave about the staff and culture of an acquisition target firm only to destroy its very value and essence within a short time period post acquisition by introducing unnecessary changes so the acquired firm will look like all the other branches in the acquirer’s system. This is often precisely the fear the acquired staff had about being acquired in the first place.

When acquired staff is unhappy they tend to polish up their resumes and dig out the card of their favorite industry recruiter and see what is available. Of course, the most talented are often the most mobile. Consequently, the acquirer may lose some key performers through their actions and then blame the process or the acquired, often anyone but themselves.

For a complimentary discussion on any M & A Topic, contact us.

Bob Cohen and Sam Sacco run R.A.Cohen Consulting, a trusted industry M&A advisory service.  The partners have advised on over 140 successful industry transactions. 

 They can be reached at (416) 229-6462, (910) 509-0691, respectively, or and

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