In our last post, we started a multi-part series on steps business owners can take to enhance and improve both their business’ value and its salability with buyers. The series is based on a study conducted by the Cass Business School of the City University London and Intralinks. The folks at Cass and Intralinks analyzed 23 years of acquisitions and examined a global sample of 33,952 public and private companies in the process of their research.
Based on their analysis, there are a number of key things that entrepreneurs can focus on to improve their standing with buyers. Today we examine another one of them:
Some folks would say, really, is that so revolutionary a topic? But the facts are that quite a few people we encounter at our M&A seminars are under the belief that revenue growth is far more important than bottom-line improvement. As we discussed in our first article, revenue growth is certainly essential; however, buyers are also equally concerned with profit margin improvement. This is how the folks at Cass and Intralinks describe it:
"Private companies in the top or bottom deciles for profitability have on average a 20% probability of being an acquisition target in any given year – 41% more likely than private companies overall."
As pointed out in our last post, the dichotomy of this situation makes intuitive sense: Companies in a given industry that have higher profit margins than industry norms are attractive to buyers because they provide the possibility of greater immediate returns. Conversely, those with profit margins that are lower make acquisition targets as well, however, for a very different reason: The opportunity for tremendous improvement going forward.
Yet, under the latter scenario, buyers will not pay a premium and, in fact, will most likely offer a discounted value given that margin improvement may be risky to attain. This is how a few of the study’s participants describe the issue:
Bigger profits also mean faster payback, notes the vice president of M&A at a US public company: “High profit margins can help clear the loan for the acquisition at a faster rate, thus bringing added monetary benefits to shareholders and owners of the acquiring business.”
For the CFO of a Canadian private company, a target with a low profit margin may be attractive: “We would invest in a company that does not have a high profit margin if it adds value to any of the companies under us. We would invest in them if we feel it has the potential to grow with a bit of capital and help from our management. We would also invest if we wanted to enter a particular sector and want to diversify our portfolio.”
The managing director of a Chinese PE firm: “We prefer investing in businesses where we know we can fully use our management capability to turn them into profitable ventures. While acquiring a business with low profit margins, we can take advantage of negotiating on the valuation to suit our needs.”
Realize this: Buyers will analyze your historic and projected revenue growth as well as your margins when reviewing your company for investment purposes. The optimal scenario for you would be to focus on improving your bottom line in advance of entering due diligence with a buyer.
Doing so will enable you to obtain a better offer, with more favorable terms, than if your margins are declining and/or are below industry norms. This is especially true when you consider that most professional buyers that you approach will be likely looking at dozens of other opportunities just like yours. Your business needs to be as attractive as possible to move to the top of that stack of offers.
However, even companies with margins that do not meet norms can be attractive if there is a plausible reason why they are below norms AND if there is potential to eventually reach or exceed standard profitability. Under this scenario, which is less than ideal, you will need to document and explain not only why the numbers are low but also what a new buyer can do to improve them. Of course the first question any savvy buyer will ask is, “Why didn’t you pursue these potential improvement strategies already?” Your answer to that question will most likely make, or break, your transaction.
Bottom line is this: Focus on it! As you pursue revenue growth strategies, ensure that you are not doing so at the expense of your margins. As the old saying goes, don’t buy sales at the expense of your income. Doing so even in the short term can be tough in the long term.
Revenue and profitability go hand in hand. As the Cass/Intralinks study proves, ignoring one at the expense of the other can impact your company’s salability.
Stay tuned for our third and final part of this series where we will explore another buyer ready building strategy.
If you are ready for an intense full day of buyer ready building strategies, attending a Generational Group exit planning workshop is perfect for you. We hold these regularly throughout North America and they are designed to aid business owners who are contemplating their eventual exit. To learn more visit our website:
By Carl Doerksen, Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.
© 2016 Generational Equity, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Bruce and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Generational Equity for assigning Musa Jagne to our transaction. In Bruce’s words, “Musa did one hell of a job for us!”Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Michael and Deborah. We couldn’t have done it without them.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
Thank you again for all your guidance and support. Any company will achieve what they intend, if they have you on their team!Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
Thanks again Phil and feel free to have a future client call me if they would like a referral. You are a true professional!Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
We will highly recommend Generational Equity and Musa Jagne to any business owner about to embark on the same process.Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
We are extremely pleased with the way Generational Equity handled the sale of our company. Your associates, Tom and Chris, did an outstanding job of getting us (me) through the process.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Tom Staszak is one of the most professional people I have dealt with in my last forty years of business. You’ve got a great group of people and you have built a truly professional organization.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.Pete L.
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
The information we learn from customers helps us personalize and continually improve your experience. Here are the types of information we gather.
We receive and store any information you enter on our Web site or give us in any other way. We do not sell or rent your personal information to others without your consent. We use the information we collect only for the purposes sending promotional information, enhancing the operation of our site, serving advertisements, for statistical purposes and to administer our systems. We DO NOT use third parties to provide customer service, to serve site content, to serve the advertisements you see on our site, to conduct surveys, to help administer promotional emails, or to administer drawings or contests, but reserve the right to do so in the future without advance notice.
By submitting my name electronically and clicking the “submit” button, I understand that I am providing Generational Group, Inc., Generational Equity, LLC, Generational Capital Markets, LLC, DealForce LLC, their affiliates, representatives, contractors, etc. (“Generational Group”) my telephone number, which may include a number that is wireless and/or a number that is on a national, state, or other Do Not Call registry or list. I hereby consent and agree to receive telephone calls including any autodialed and/or pre-recorded telemarketing calls and/or text messages (telemarketing) from or on behalf of Generational Group at the telephone number provided. I further consent and agree that telephone calls may be made using automated technology such as an automatic telephone dialing system, artificial or prerecorded voice, or SMS text messaging. Consent is not a condition of purchase. I further warrant and represent that any telephone number provided is not on any state or national Do Not Call Registry and that by agreeing to these terms and conditions that if any number provided is on any such registry, I hereby consent and agree to receive telemarking calls and/or communications including any phone calls, text messages, URLs, links, emails, etc. to the telephone number(s) and/or any e-mail addresses provided. I understand that by entering my name in the electronic form provided, that I am signing my name as equally as if it was my handwritten signature and that it is my intent to provide an “electronic signature” as that term is defined in state and federal law, as well as industry practices for e-commerce.
For reasons such as improving personalization of our service, we might receive information about you from other sources and add it to our account information.
Generational Group may license the use of its intellectual property including but not limited to its name, likeness, and logo for the use of affiliated offices. Such affiliated offices may not be owned, controlled, managed, supervised or staffed by employees, officers, or agents of Generational Group. Affiliated offices may be independently owned and operated. For more information about a particular office, please contact Generational Group at its office in Dallas, Texas.
This page may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information, the terms of which must be observed and followed.
Information on this web site may contain technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Information may be changed or updated without notice. Generational Group may also make improvements and/or changes in the products and/or the programs described in this information at any time without notice.
Generational Group does not want to receive confidential or proprietary information from you through our web site. Please note that any information or material sent to Generational Group will be deemed NOT to be confidential. By sending Generational Group any information or material, you grant Generational Group an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit and distribute those materials or information, and you also agree that Generational Group is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques that you send us for any purpose.
Our computer system protects personal information using advanced firewall technology.
Information Generational Group publishes on the World Wide Web may contain references or cross references to other products, programs and services that are not announced or available in your country. Such references do not imply that Generational Group intends to announce such products, programs or services in your country. Consult a Generational Group representative for information regarding the products, programs and services which may be available to you.
Generational Group makes no representations whatsoever about any other web site which you may access through this one. When you access a non-Generational Group web site, please understand that it is independent from Generational Group, and that Generational Group has no control over the content on that web site. In addition, a link to a non-Generational Group web site does not mean that Generational Group endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content, or the use, of such web site. It is up to you to take precautions to ensure that whatever you select for your use is free of such items as viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other items of a destructive nature.
IN NO EVENT WILL Generational Group BE LIABLE TO ANY PARTY OR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL OR OTHER CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES FOR ANY USE OF THIS WEBSITE, OR ON ANY OTHER HYPERLINKED WEBSITE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY LOST PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, LOSS OF PROGRAMS OR OTHER DATA ON YOUR INFORMATION HANDLING SYSTEM OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF WE ARE EXPRESSLY ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
Furthermore, all information contained within this website is the property of Generational Group.
Honored to win Investment Banking Firm of the Year 3 years running.
Over 50 awards and counting.
Sign up to receive regular email updates, industry-leading insights and details on complimentary M&A executive conferences in your area from our award-winning team
Success, you have been added to our list.