On this week’s episode of M&A Masters, we’re sitting down with Renny Sie, Vice President of Business Development and Investor Relations at the private equity firm Boyne Capital.
Established in 2006, Boyne Capital takes a different approach to investing—one that forges lasting and collaborative relationships with companies whose founders and families are still deeply involved in growing their businesses. It’s a term they call a value cultivator approach.
Renny says, “Partnership is extremely important to us. The fit is important because this is going to be a long-term partnership to grow this thing together and make it bigger and better for everyone.”
Listen to discover:
And much more
Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth, trusted authority in executive and transactional liability and president of Rubicon M&A Insurance Services. Now a proud member of the Liberty Company Insurance Broker Network. Welcome to M&A Masters where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions. And we’re all about one thing here. That’s a clean exit for owners, founders and their investors. Today I’m joined by Renny Sie, Vice President for Business Development for Boyne Capital. Boyne Capital was established in 2006 in Miami, Florida, with a focus on investing in lower middle market companies. Boyne has a unique approach to investing. It’s an approach to forges lasting and collaborative relationships with companies whose founders and families are still deeply involved with growing their business. It’s a term they call a value cultivator approach. Renny is a pleasure to have you. Thanks for joining me today.
Renny Sie: Thank you, Patrick. It’s great to be here.
Patrick: Now, before we get into Boyne Capital and the value cultivator approach, I just think is a unique wording there. So that’s, that’s very, very interesting. Let’s start with you. What brought you to this point in your career?
Renny: Oh, gosh, where do I even start? I guess I have what you call a non traditional background. So starting from the very beginning, I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, the oldest of three siblings, the first one to actually go to college. I came to the US to attend college at California State University Fresno. So right by you. And my major was classical piano performance. After graduating from CSU Fresno, I went on to do my masters and then audition to a bunch of different schools to try to find a scholarship for me to keep going to school, because I liked school that much. Eventually ended up in University of Miami Frost School of Music doing my doctorate in classical piano performance. So did that until 2016. And then I found myself married with a young child and then realize that, oh, my I’ve been doing this for my whole life, and it’s not going to pay the bills, unfortunately.
Renny: My husband told me I should go back to business school and get MBA and I told him, he was crazy. But I’m glad I took the chance, went back to business school at University of Miami did a full time MBA three year program there. Interned with Goldman Sachs in the summer, took a full time job with them in their Florida office. Three years in learned a lot from Goldman. Really enjoyed working there. But always had a knack with entrepreneurship and private equity and that world. My dad is an entrepreneur. So I got in touch with Derek McDowell at Boyne Capital. And technically I basically just asked him for a job and he gave me he gave me a chance. So that was more than three and a half years ago, I’m still sitting happily here at Boyne Capital. My primary focus here at Boyne is deal originations and LP relations. So what that means is, I connect us with the potential sellers or what we call potential partners.
Patrick: And so you’re around that connection. Is there any, you know, the skill set you have from being a high level concert pianist, into the financial world? I just it that’s a really unique matchup.
Renny: Yeah, I would say, you know, contrary to popular belief, people think that artists or musicians are on a creative side. Or more prone to creativity, you know, an art side. I’m not. And I think most of my colleagues in the music world isn’t either. We’re trained to like stare at tiny little notes and tiny little details. So I would say that we have really attentive to details. That’s one.
Patrick: Focus, yes.
Renny: And then when, focus and then the discipline, you’re used to like practicing eight, nine hours a day, I guess, without paying for, without, like actual benefits, right? Other than getting better. So those skills that like I brought over and I have found like my training in classical music has been very helpful.
Patrick: Tell me about Boyne. And why don’t we start with this? How did they come up with the name because that usually gives you some insight into the culture and the founder.
Renny: Yeah, so like I said, Boyne was founded in 2006 by Derek McDowell, our CEO and Managing Partner who today still very involved in all aspects of the firm. The name Boyne Capital came from River Boyne in Ireland. A very pretty river. So I’m not sure about what specials are of Boyne, I should probably educate myself about that. But that’s where it came from. We are a lower middle market focused private equity firm. We are based in Miami, there is 26 of us sitting in Miami, which is crazy, because when I joined three years ago, there’s only 16, 17 of us.
So we have grown a lot, which is exciting time. And lower middle market is what we define as companies with EBITDA between three to $15 million, typically revenues under $100 million. And you asked me why lower middle market space? You know, it’s because I think we can provide the most value in this space. You know, lower middle market companies, often are family owned, you know, and they usually do not have either the infrastructure or the capital to grow on their own without eating into the sellers, or the management teams time and personal capital, right. So that’s where we came in. We we like to partner with business owners management team, or, you know, I guess the sellers, in this case.
We do majority recapitalization and usually position ourselves as a solution provider. Because if you think about it, most business owners think about PE partnerships as an exit route, right? Is like oh a PE firm wants to buy me, therefore, I must exit 100% and give give them the keys to my house. But that’s not usually the case. Especially not with us. With us, it’s not 100% exit. And for the most part, we actually do not encourage that. We encourage them to hang on to a minority equity, because we will help them grow their business. Together, we’re going to maximize enterprise value, and then they will actually have a much bigger exit the second time around.
Patrick: Yeah, that second bite of the apple.
Renny: Correct. Yeah. And that’s where the value cultivator concept come in, right. We always joke internally. We’re not good at leverage buyout, but we’re excellent in leverage buy in. So we buy into those, those management teams and those owners of the businesses and really support them through their growth initiatives. And, and there are many ways that I can go into detail with examples of how we how we support them.
Patrick: Well, I think that is very helpful, because there are a lot of owners and founders that they reach an inflection point, some of them are looking for an exit. And then it says, well, do they really want an exit? Or do they just want to change, they just don’t know how to do it. And as we’re finding a lot of owner founder businesses, where an owner can, you know, commences a process, then all of a sudden, is reluctant and starts dragging their feet there, which can get very, very frustrating, because they really didn’t want to give up something that was the core of their life. And, you know, and there are those that do want to do that. And there’s an avenue but the others that they don’t want to give everything away, they’ve spent a lifetime building something.
And there, as I mentioned, the inflection point where they’re, they’re too small to be enterprise, but they’re too big to be small now. And so what do they do? And they just don’t know where to go. And unfortunately, and this is why we wanted to go and meet with Boyne Capital is that if they don’t know, the owners of founders, if they don’t know about Boyne Capital, they may default to you know, partner with a strategic that may not have their best interests at heart, or they’re going to go to an you know, an institution and you know. Where, where if you go to an institution, you’re going to get underserved, you’re going to get overpriced, and you’re not going to get what you really wanted.
But a lot of people don’t know about this. And the thing with Boyne Capital particularly is, okay, you started in 2006. In 2019, there are over 5000 private equity firms now, okay. More than half of them look to the lower middle market. And so, you know, you have to have something unique that comes and speaks to these owners and founders depending on what they want. If the ones that want an exit, they can go someplace others that want to get to that other side and see how to cross the finish line. They can come to an organization like Boyne. You mentioned that with your value cultivator approach. There are a couple ways that that manifests. Give us a couple of examples if you could.
Renny: So for most of our platform, investments, like I said, typically they don’t have the necessary key executives in place. Typically, like a CFO or controller, that they would actually have to go out and hire and recruiting and hiring takes a lot of time away from the CEOs from running the business. Right. So our team, our operations team in house has a team of operations people that actually work hand in hand with the portfolio company management team to do financial reporting and you know, executing their growth plans, talking through strategy, and within the team, my colleague, who’s whose title is VP of human capital, and she’s been instrumental in hiring and adding key hires to portfolio companies as they become on board so the management team doesn’t have to.
You save time, and that’s definitely a valuable thing to present to potential partners. And then also, of course, you know, when when you’re trying to grow by acquisition, you’re trying to do it on your own. It is a huge undertaking, right? Even if you’re doing it, not to sell your company, but to acquire companies to grow your own. It is helpful to have somebody like us, you know, with capital and more than just capital, to help you execute, identify targets and make sure that you’re going down the right path.
Patrick: Yeah, experience helps, doesn’t it?
Renny: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And also, like, given the pandemic, some businesses, you know, thrive, some businesses didn’t. But I bet a lot of business owners would not want to go go through that again, alone. Helpful always have a partner.
Patrick: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, the other thing is key when you’re, you got the skill set with the human capital, particularly now, it’s not only a challenge to recruit, but it’s retain. And I think, probably what you have is a great skill set and an advantage on that front. The other thing that’s interesting is that you’re not coming in and the the procession with a lot of private equity firms from outside is that the private equity firm is going to come in, as you said, load them up on debt and do a lot of financial reengineering. You don’t do that. You’re looking at no, we want we want to go ahead, and we’re going to reset and get some operations and get people in.
Renny: That’s right. So for from our side, partnership is extremely important, right? The fit is important, because we have the mindset of like this is going to be a long term partnership to grow this thing together to make it bigger, make it better for everyone. So it’s not just kind of like acquire and hold or like come in and clean house and put in as much as our people on the board. No, it’s not that. So every single major decision making is made in partnership with management team. So we think that’s very important. Again, there’s like something for everyone, right? So if someone wants to, like retire 100% and hand over the keys, probably not for us. Like if someone who wants to actually a partner who supports their growth and willing to roll up our sleeves and actually do the work. Like putting in infrastructure putting in NetSuite doing key hires and actually clean up everything and make it you know, better and more more professional, then we would probably be a good fit.
Patrick: Talk about, you mentioned lower middle market, where you’ve got owner and founder involved. Fill out the profile. What’s the profile of Boyne Capital’s ideal target? What are you looking for?
Renny: So aside from the financial profile, three to 15 million EBITDA, revenue under 100, typically what we look for some some a business with good growth potential, proven profitability. I guess that’s probably kind of normal. But someone who has grown their business to a point that they can’t anymore, or they need help to do more, and they want to do more, right. So that’s the key. So like you said, it’s inflection point, but they want to push through that inflection point. Instead of like okay, this inflection point, and I think I’m done for the day. And in terms of industries, we’re pretty agnostic. We like business services, more acid like businesses, you know, in a bunch of different different verticals. And we have an areas of interest that we’ll list on our website, if you want to go and check it out. But most importantly, it’s a partnership. It has to be with the right management team, yeah.
Patrick: So that’s the, that’s where the fit is. Any issues on geographical?
Renny: We invest in US and Canada. If you look at our current active portfolio, portfolio companies or even former portfolio companies is all over the place. We have companies in Florida, California, Wisconsin, Kansas City. Officially, we are looking for investments in Canada, we just haven’t found one yet.
Patrick: One of the recent trends has been happening in mergers and acquisitions and why we’ve had such a big growth in private equity is the successful transition that M&A transactions are having right now. They’re happening more efficiently. They’re happening, cheaper, faster, all those other wonderful terms that you have, and one of the reasons why the industry has gone from a few 100 private equity firms to 5000 today is that the transactions themselves are a lot easier to execute. And one of the byproducts of that, or one of the creators of that has been that there’s been a product out in the insurance world called reps and warranties insurance.
And what it has done is really elegantly transferred risk away from buyer versus seller, to a third party with deeper pockets so that if both parties can transfer risk for reasonable price, okay, deals go forward. And not only do they close, but then the post closing transition is that much easier, because again, you don’t have one party against another. And so you know, don’t take my word for it. Renny, good, bad or indifferent. What’s your experience been with rep and warranty insurance?
Renny: I totally agree with you, Patrick. We have had a very good experience using it as a way to take a major area of buyer seller negotiation off the table. For many of our transactions. I think we use it in about like 80% of our platform transactions now. And it removes the often contentious issue of escrow size and exposure cap for seller indemnification. And it gets more cash in their pockets at closing. And it still protects us from from unknown issues in the business that are discovered, put close. So we’re a big proponent of rep and warranty. And we will, we will continue to keep using rep and warranty insurance. And now the rep and warranty insurance market is so robust. So there’s we can typically find good coverage and options for pricing.
Patrick: I could not have said it better myself. Thank you. Thank you so much. I think one of the great things about the platform we want to bring to people’s attention in the audience is that reps and warranties used to be a product reserved for deals at $100 million dollar enterprise value and up. They had rigorous due diligence requirements, financial requirements, all those things, and the price was still relatively good. But the eligibility criteria to get in was difficult, particularly for the lower middle market. And what’s great is there’s been a new product that’s been introduced that provides a sell side rep and warranty policy. And it protects sellers and the buyers involved in deals at a $15 million transaction value and down.
So you can buy up to $10 million in limits on a 10 or $11 million company and cover everything all the way up to the thing. It’s a fraction of the cost. And what’s nice is the more that organizations like yours and lower middle market are aware of this because it’s not only good for platform acquisition, but for add ons, which usually you know, you had to go bear because they weren’t eligible. Now it’s there. So it’s one of those things we wanted to make sure we pointed out to everybody. Renny, as we just turned the corner from 2021 to 2022. And I don’t see robust M&A activity dropping anytime soon. Share with me, what trends do you see either an M&A or Boyne Capital? Tell me what you see.
Renny: So I can’t predict your future, Patrick. I don’t have a crystal ball. But what I can tell you is like I think the trend of what we were seeing in 2021 has been going to continue. Just from macro environment, the pandemic, I guess, is still here, surprisingly, right. So people still have that mentality, probably they don’t want to go through another round of difficulties alone. So that’s going to drive some activity. And some people probably have some difficult situations happen with, you know, house, or family that got them to rethink their priorities. And maybe they want to step back, retire from the business. And some people probably want to start their own business because like they quit their corporate jobs, right. So those definitely will contribute to stronger M&A environment. And things like tesco changes, also. So a lot of things that could potentially make it even more robust, or whatever it is, you know, like I see just good things, hopefully happening in 2022. We are excited to see what it has in store for us.
Patrick: I completely agree. I mean, one of the things that I’m stealing from a prior guest is that, you know, we have economic cycles come and go. Pandemics are going to come and go and tax changes are going to come and go. One thing that is gonna be constant is time. And as you know, a lot of these owners and founders, many are baby boomers, they’re getting to the point where they’re going to reach their own personal inflection point. And that’s that’s going to be father time. So I think that there’s going to be a very large transition as we go forward. And that’s going to carry forward I believe, sincerely for the next couple of years. But, you know, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully, things things will move as they’ve been moving. So this is good. Now Rennym, how can our audience members find you and Boyne Capital?
Renny: First place to check is our website and www.boynecapital.com. And it’s spelled B as in boy, O as an Oscar, Y, N as in Natalie, E as an echo capital.com. You can find myself there with my contact information. It’s Renny Sie, I always tell people it’s like Jenny with an R. It’s easier. My email is email@example.com. It’s spelled R as in Robert, S as in Sierra, I as in echo. No, I as in Italy, E as in echo @boynecapital.com and you can call me at 305-856-9500.
Patrick: Fantastic, Renny Sie from Boyne Capital absolute pleasure talking to you in this value cultivator approach. I really, really like it. It’s very, very refreshing. It’s just, it’s this abundance thing where you take something you’re just going to make more for everybody and I think it’s just very, very positive. Thanks for joining me today.
Renny: Thank you for having me, Patrick. Take care.
As Representations and Warranty insurance matures as a product and comes into wider use, Underwriters are taking lessons learned from past claims to equip future policyholders on ways to either identify pre-closing trouble-spots, or to mitigate their impact post-closing. They’re looking for patterns or “danger areas” where breaches are more likely to occur.
Many such breaches result in losses far exceeding the R&W policy limit. So, it’s essential that Buyers take action so that they can catch any issues before a deal closes. That way they can address the issue with the Seller. (Read to the end of this article for key questions to ask in this regard during the due diligence process.)
The cynical view is that insurance companies are taking such an interest in order to exclude parts of the deal from the policies they provide so they don’t have to pay claims.
But I see it as an attempt to protect Buyers and give them the chance to go to the Seller for a remedy. That could be a lower price or having the Seller address the issue. This way the risk is transferred away and does not have an impact on the R&W policy for the deal.
All industry types are impacted by material contract breaches. But the biggest “hot spots” are manufacturing, tech, and government contractors.
Trouble Areas to Look Out For
Currently, material contracts are now the third leading cause of R&W claims overall worldwide, preceded by financial misstatements and violation of laws, and tied with tax issues. Material contracts represent 14% of reported incidents, as reported in AIG’s M&A Insurance Comes of Age report.
If a Buyer acquires a target company with bad contracts and it is not disclosed, the Buyer is left holding the bag. And that bag can be quite big. Damages in material contract claims can be sizeable.
Think a $20M material contract claim with a $10M R&W policy.
There are four leading types of material contract breaches.
1. Issues around profitability of a contract (e.g. improper accounting for expenses).
2. Target in breach of a material contract.
3. Change in a customer relationship (e.g. termination or curtailing of purchasing levels). This could involve contracts with key customers where a customer is allowed to go to another provider for lower costs, leaving the new owner without revenue they expected. This is a major issue.
4. Failure to disclose existence of a material contract or material term (e.g. undisclosed discounts)
Due Diligence Questions You Can Use
The below are questions regarding material contracts taken from actual due diligence calls with Underwriters. I would recommend you make this a standard part of due diligence in your deals.
1. Discuss the scope of your diligence of Company contracts. Was this reviewed in house by the Buyer? What diligence was memorialized in writing, if any? Have you reviewed all material customer and vendor contracts? Confirm you’ve reviewed all form agreements and material deviations therefrom.
2. Please confirm no issues were identified in the top 15 customer and service provider contracts.
3. Please confirm that you did not identify any material vendor or supplier that cannot be readily replaced.
4. Discuss any notable provisions (e.g. change in control, anti-assignment, most-favored nation, termination, preferential pricing, restrictive covenants, atypical indemnity, powers of attorney). How does Company ensure compliance?
5. Describe the indemnification provisions in the material contracts. Have there been any breaches (actual or alleged) of any contract? Any other material disputes or declines in business under any contract? Are you aware of any other planned terminations or other issues with respect to the Company’s material relationships?
6. Did you or any advisor conduct customer calls/surveys? If so, describe the results.
7. Confirm Company is not a party to any government contract. If so, describe.
8. Have any customers provided any notice of intent to terminate? Are there any concerns related to this?
9. Any other concerns related to material contracts?
Material contract breaches can be a serious issue for any M&A Buyer. But armed with knowledge, it’s a problem easily avoided before a deal closes.
I’m happy to discuss this issue with you further. You can contact me
You can contact me Patrick Stroth, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this week’s episode of M&A Masters, we sit down with Laurin Parthemos to talk about culture. Laurin is a Principal at Kotter, a company named after Dr. John Kotter, the world’s foremost change expert. Kotter’s approach to merger & acquisition integration focuses on culture and people first.
Laurin says, “Culture is more and more seen as that differentiator within an industry to say we have a strong culture where people want to work.”
Listen as she walks us through:
Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth, trusted authority in executive and transactional liability, and President of Rubicon M&A Insurance Services. Now a proud member of the Liberty Company Insurance Broker Network. Welcome to M&A Masters where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions. And we’re all about one thing here, that’s a clean exit for owners, founders and their investors. Today I’m joined by Laurin Parthemos, Principal of Kotter. With offices on both coasts, Kotter helps organizations mobilize their people to achieve unimaginable results at unprecedented speeds. And I gotta tell you it for a marketing thing, that’s a lot to unpack in one sentence. So there’s a very efficient intro right there. Laurin, welcome to M&A Masters. Thanks for joining me today.
Laurin Parthemos: Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
Patrick: Now, before we get into Kotter, which is a major consulting firm at the forefront of change. Let’s just start with you. How did you get to this point your career?
Laurin: Absolutely. So I like to say I kind of grew up in the banking industry. So I started my career off in one of those typical but no longer really exist big training programs, working on the lending side. Transitioned into M&A myself doing fundraising for startups, then working with the tier one investment banks, all their processes and operations and how to actually optimize and be efficient. And really, throughout my entire time, through each and every one of those phases within the industry, I really just found myself scratching my head as to why everything was so KPI focused and why things weren’t working, and really leaning on my previous role.
And what I was doing back in my college days, which was being a sailing coach, and really trying to motivate people and teaching people how to continue going, despite obstacles that you’re seeing. And I really realized that that human element in terms of change, and how you’re dealing with the day to day is just missing in so many organizations. And it’s that unpredictable factor that really can make or break an organization. So when I was looking for my next opportunity, I came across Kotter and that light bulb moment happened, where I just realized, oh, my gosh, I’m not the only one who thinks that.
And not only is there a whole body of work behind this, but it’s operationalized. And it’s actually out in the industry. And it’s not just theories talking about potential research, but it’s actually happening in the real world. So I’d say the short and sweet is that I just kind of was trying to find my home in terms of people who understood that change isn’t just about financial success metrics, that if you don’t have that integrated body of work underneath it, that takes into consideration all factors, then you’re not gonna be successful.
Patrick: Well, I think that change is at the core of M&A. Alright, and the objective with a good M&A strategy is it’s it’s a situation where you’ve got, it’s not company A buying company B, and now you’ve got something, okay. It is one group of people agreeing to partner with another group of people with the objective that look, the whole is going to be greater than the sum of its parts. And because we’ve got people at the core of this, okay, that’s changed, people are resistant to change. And so it’s always fascinating to see how you address that.
A lot of organizations just, you know, they they muscle through that however they can, and you know, they’ve got that attitude. Well, you know, we’ve gone through this before, and we’ve done it before, we’ll do it again. And you know, suck it up. Let’s go. And it’s just so counterintuitive to what’s really happening out there. And so now we come to Kotter. And it’s Kotter with a K which was formed after Dr. John Carter, Kotter, excuse me. And he’s a leading expert in leading change, not just change itself, but leading it. And so talk about Kotter, the organization and what kind of services it’s about on a macro level.
Laurin: Yeah, absolutely. So the foundation of our business really was John Kotter’s body of work. He’s a former Harvard Business School professor that was doing extensive research around leadership and what makes organizations successful. And in the 90s, he published an article called Why Transformations Fail. And it was 10 years of research, over 100 organizations studied. And realized that 70% of those organizations actually failed some metric that leadership had established in terms of what does success look like in terms of this transformation. Can be whatever budget win over time.
But the ones that were successful had this foundation of what he called the eight accelerators, and essentially these various different pieces and it’s not steps that you can kind of check off like a waterfall method but various different pieces with an ecosystem that when activated, means that you’ll be more successful. And so what we do is actually bring those eight accelerators to life when we partner with organizations, and especially in the M&A field. We work a lot on the post deal integration side. Really, really a function of that’s when people start thinking about culture, it’s not because that’s when we should be brought in.
Patrick: They’re not running into the obstacles yet. You know, coming together, and then once you’re together, okay, now what? So, yeah.
Laurin: Yeah, absolutely. So what we like to do and what really sets us apart, I think, is that we partner with organizations. We do not come in as a consulting firm and say, here’s our plan. Here’s what the research we did here’s statistics, plop the plan down, leave and call it a day. We work directly with people from across the organization. So that diagonal cross section there all the way from senior leaders, to those junior people on the ground to come up together with plans that will actually make a change successful. And when you’re thinking about that integration process, worst case scenario, you’re going to have a group of people who just feel a sincere sense of loss when they go through.
And these integrations, because realistically speaking, you’re dealing with a body of people. And this isn’t the leadership, but the actual employees on the ground doing the work and making the organization successful, that have just had their futures determined for them. They no longer have control, and they’re no longer able to have any certainty around what’s going on. Because it’s just a flash Band-Aid rip most of the time. And so that if you read our latest book that came out this summer, Change, we talk a lot about that in terms of the survive and thrive mindsets. And announcements like that really activate that survive.
So you immediately have a rush of cortisol running through your body. You’re not able to really think strategically anymore as an individual, and you really are just in that fight or flight mode in terms of how do you do things. So we try to not only acknowledge that that is a realistic possibility, but actively counteract it to make sure that people aren’t thrown into that. But come up with ways for your own organization, to move away from that into that thrive mindset where you can actually think creatively and be more future oriented in terms of how you can be successful.
Patrick: Well it’s interesting, because you talked about the people, again, we’re falling back on this people are at the center of this. But it’s interesting, because there are there are other shows out there where they interview firms that merge together, entrepreneurs that sold their company and merged. And one of the common questions comes up. When did you tell your people? And and a lot of them agonized over that because you know, what was the outcome? Obviously, you’ve got that fight or flight, immediate response, particularly when this process has been going on for months. And then the announcement comes to the to the team, like within days of it happening, or in some cases, hours of it taking effect.
So you’ve got that natural thing. The other thing is interesting, I appreciate this is that what Dr. Kotter did was he was looking if integration didn’t go well, well, rather than than looking at the ones that failed, which is easy to do, try to pull out the what was common about the ones that succeeded. Because that’s the formula to move forward rather than, you know, Monday morning quarterbacking, you know, others of those deals. So that’s, that’s a unique thing. And this whole issue now where you guys have and again, we’re still macro, but the science of change, and there’s an awareness there.
And I think as more understanding happens, that’s fantastic. And that’s leading, you know, we’re Kotter’s kind of leading, leading the change. You know, the the group on that. One of the things that you and I had spoken about before, and we will get into this a little bit more, but it is a big, you know, kind of California, wishy washy kind of thing is is a topic of culture, and how you know, Kotter, one of the things that you guys look at is, you know, the importance of it. And it’s beyond this whole thing of well, these guys dress, you know, have a dress code these people don’t. It goes way deeper than that to talk about culture a little bit for me.
Laurin: Absolutely. And I will say that one of the things that is really important is that we don’t deal with culture in the sense that that’s the only thing we care about. But that’s how we differentiate ourselves. Because there’s all we obviously care about business practices, and what are the strategies and processes behind something. But culture should always be tied to that strategic objective. And there should always be that measurement going forward. It’s just as important as how we do the work. It’s not a fun little tier off to the side. So when we think about culture, it’s really the behaviors of that organization.
So how are decisions made? How are you communicating with people? If you’re a people manager? What are those practices around actually growing the organization? How do you handle professional development? What are your policies around whether it be feedback or how you’re actually just going about the day? Are you a nine to five, only organization? Do you work outside of those bounds? And it’s just all those tiny little behaviors that then culminate into this larger topic of culture. And it’s not that kind of wishy washy California, as you mentioned earlier, but it’s all those little tiny practices, how much does your vision come to life in your day to day? Or does it not? If it doesn’t, that’s okay. But it’s more of an acknowledgement of how that actually is brought in. And understanding the foundations of that is really what’s important.
Patrick: And the issue with culture also is, as you and I’m stealing from you from an earlier conversation, but it’s the importance of bringing joy and higher achievement in. This isn’t some esoteric, you know, we’re gonna have a company look, and this is it’s really, you know, performance, this enhances performance.
Laurin: Absolutely. Culture is not just a piece of paper where someone wrote down, like, we are a technology focused firm, where we love collaborating, and then it gets thrown into a drawer and never spoken of again. Culture, whether it’s defined or not, is how people within your organization actually operate. And that’s the key of success and knowing how does that actually work? And if you change some of these levers, in terms of how do we slowly migrate people into one direction, or maybe quickly in another, in order to pull levers to improve performance for the organization as a whole.
Patrick: And the thing in there, Kotter’s, not alone in this, you’re just at the front of the line on this, but this culture really is trying, organizations are trying to see if they can quantify it, if they can measure it, and then see if they can harness it as a strategic advantage. And and I think, you know, the dynamic of the workforce now is an unmistakable element of the outgrowth of culture. Let’s just talk about that where we had the scenario in the banking industry.
Laurin: Absolutely. So you’ll see it easily in the financial services industry, where what used to be that exciting field of investment banking, where you had all the graduates wanting to funnel themselves in and fight for those top tier positions in banks are no longer going towards those at the same rate. They’re going towards FinTech, those various different organizations, that could be startups, they could be larger at this point, starting to get some extra funding and are really expanding. But it’s, the hallmark behind it is really, because the cultures are very different.
There’s the thought process behind having to work those long hours for the same amount of pay. And the same amount of incredibly high or the hierarchical demoralizing, what can be seen as demoralizing for this generation, environment, versus one where they can create their own path, and they can start defining things for themselves is much more exciting for these generations. So there’s a huge shift in the talent pool in the younger generations wanting to find something new and culture is really at the heart of it.
Patrick: But with culture it’s also, it’s not just, you know, retaining talent and keeping people but you’ve got to be aware of it when you’re bringing one force to join another force. And and you’ve got to know the potential clash of cultures there. And you’ve experienced that. Talk about that real quick.
Laurin: Absolutely. So we had one organization that it was two competitors, who were top in their field. Unfortunately, I can’t give the actual names. And I would love to give actual details, because the details are just 10 times more impactful, but when we anonymize it, you can’t really see that full picture. But two, huge top of the industry, competitors formed into one. Merged together. And as we were going through their integration strategy, and what really needed to come out of it, we realized really early on that if we were going to make a proof point of this integration in terms of how to be successful, we needed to generate wins early on. And I would say that’s fairly typical across the board.
You always want to be generating wins to boost morale and create that snowball effect of moving forward. And the way that we were going to do it and be most successful and most impactful was to get the sales teams working together. Because if the sales teams could work together, who were rivals and did not like each other, if we can get them on the same team collaborating and actively working as a unit. Then that makes the proof point for the rest of the organization to say you know what, they can do it, why can’t I. So what we did is after we brought them together, we really allowed them and created a space where they can decide what that collaboration looks like and decide what their path forward is. It’s like I said, it’s not us coming in and detailing out high level plans, it’s working with the organization to create that for them.
So what they decided to do is that they were going to sell one product together. And it did not matter what industry you focused on. So they were selling products across a variety of different sub sectors. And they all went back and said, you know, what, by the way, have you seen XYZ in the market? Really exciting. I know, it doesn’t apply to you, but maybe look into it. Might be of some interest. And through that, and all of them deciding, we have a goal of we want to sell X amount of this product, we’re all going to do it together doesn’t matter who does it. Let’s do this as a team. It ended up being by far the largest selling product in that industry.
Patrick: So you get the results right there. I just, you know, when you go the uber hyper competitive forces, okay, now they’re forced to work together. Okay. If they can work, then everybody else can. But what really struck me about this is not only I mean, it’s easy to see also, because we’re in marketing and sales, we appreciate this. But it’s also the, you didn’t take this universal approach, where okay, we’re going to change everything. Okay, you’re just let’s just get, prioritize a couple things and like you said, get some wins and moving forward.
I think that’s what happens is, everybody appreciates that, as they’re bringing on onboarding services and so forth, it’s just get those little wins to move down, let’s get those first downs and move on. We don’t have to have the big long pass because a lot of times that could delay things. And then people are just there again, in that space of they don’t know things are changing. They don’t know how it’s factoring, but they don’t see anything happening. And then you get nervous there. So I really appreciate how you guys can break that down.
Laurin: Absolutely. I would say one of the most important things that often gets overlooked in terms of these plans is that it’s just saying, okay, we introduced you guys to each other, we’re done. High five or something along those lines. And it’s culture and the people integration isn’t taken into the same level of detail, as you see technology integration, or process integration, which does need to be considered at a high level. And if you think of Roger’s law of diffusion, when you’re regarding innovations.
It’s the same principle that you need to start with a group of people who are willing to accept that change, create those early wins and proof points, because as you create and generate those small wins and create momentum, you’re creating that rationale for the people who are more resistant to change and wanting to step back to say, you know what, this group did it, they were successful, I’m bought in. And then when you get those people who are partially resistant to change, you start getting the people who are very resistant to change, and you start making a movement that way. It’s not forcing it, but it’s creating proof points of success around that entire process,
Patrick: Define or give me a profile of your of Kotter’s ideal client. Where are you looking as the ideal client where you can make these changes?
Laurin: Absolutely. I think, realistically speaking at Kotter, we consider ourselves generalists, but what we really like to focus on are those calcified industries. The ones who haven’t necessarily changed yet, and are looking for that new generation to be that catalyst to move forward. And that’s really where we’re going to see our most success. I would say, anyone who is in a leadership position, where they are already having these thoughts and feelings around this is I want to change differently. I’ve done this time and time again, without success by going through the traditional methods. Let me try something new. That’s going to be our target audience. Because if we have someone within an organization who is willing to try some of the things that, from a traditionalist standpoint, sound a little off the wall, but are proven time and time again by both research and outcomes from our clients, that they do work.
Patrick: This doesn’t happen unless you get buy in from the top, obviously. Now, Laurin, you mentioned calcified industries. Give us an example of a few others. You mentioned banking, what besides banking would be calcified?
Laurin: Absolutely, I would say healthcare as a whole very much in that wanting to transition phase and wanting to accelerate phase but hasn’t necessarily gotten there yet. Very much government entities, still working on how to actually become as efficient as humanly possible within their structures. You’ll see it in higher education who are still very slow moving on various pieces depending on the cycles that they’re in in terms of their semester. You’ll see, and you do see it across the board. And you also see, you’ll see it in manufacturing at times and supply chain. It’s very much, I would say a universal piece for all the ones that aren’t talked about in the news necessarily on a regular basis, I would say the rest of them are still looking to really accelerate.
Patrick: Talk about the onboarding process, how long it takes and things like that.
Laurin: Absolutely. So onboarding for us, when we first start working with a client, we take a couple of months to actually do that discovery work. And discovery isn’t just kind of sitting in the background, reading some old documents. Yes, we do do that we need to do that and do our research to see what’s actually happened. But it also can consist of doing culture change surveys, and actually figuring out what that network within your organization looks like. And how ready is your organization with what are the general sentiments in your organization. Going through and doing stakeholder interviews, and not just interviewing leadership, but interviewing various different people within the organization who are doing the work to really understand what that landscape looks like, and then going into an alignment session to really define out what is your big opportunity in terms of this.
And that’s not saying it’s going to replace a mission or vision statement, because they do not. They supplement it. Because an opportunity is a window of time, it is a strategically held short term opportunity where you can charge towards that and everything that the organization does, should support that opportunity in terms of achieving it. And that opportunity will then flow into your mission and vision and your strategic objectives that you want to achieve for the 10 year vision, or the 30 year vision depending on what you have.
Patrick: Gotcha. Now I appreciate, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So this isn’t, you know, an overnight fix. But matter of weeks, months? Ballpark?
Laurin: I would say months. It depends on after we go through that discovery phase of a few months, we go through and define custom plans and roadmaps for an organization based off of the level of need. If we’re doing a one off, you’ve purchased an entity, great, you’ve got the target company, you need to integrate it in much shorter timeframe, then building out a conglomerate where someone purchased a ton of various different entities. And now you’re trying to make one holistic unit. So really depends on what landscape we’re dealing with. I’d say about a year timeframe, we really like to work through organizations and do a lot of this work on that shorter end, not because it takes that entire year long necessarily.
It depends on the organization again, but more so embedding behaviors, take does take time. So you can have that switch. And if you read anything on habits, you can quickly change but then you can regress back if those behaviors aren’t reinforced. So it’s doing, making sure that that repetition is there and making sure that that reinforcement is there across the board in terms of how you incentivizes there in order to make it as successful as possible.
Patrick: Gotcha. Well, I think that this is important. And one of the things I just pulled from you is that this isn’t just limited to strategic acquirers where they’re going to make an acquisition here or there. You could literally have this for private or private equity clients where they have multiple, very diverse portfolio companies. And although they don’t work hand in hand, the various portfolios, intermix with each other that often, many PE firms are trying to do that. That’s one of their strategic advantages is seeing how they can take, leverage strengths and to overcome weaknesses among the portfolio companies. We want to get, you know, our culture, not just within the PE firm of the investors, but within the portfolio across the breadth of the portfolio. And so I could see that being something that would be very, very helpful.
Laurin: Absolutely. It’s something that we’ve been talking to clients about in recent years. And I would say, if you think about venture instead of PE, for example, just making all of those bets and saying not all of them are gonna pan out, we’ll have a couple of successes that are runaway successes to pay for the investments that don’t necessarily work out. But how can you actually structure your portfolio to complement each other? And actually work together as a cohesive unit? Not necessarily from going as formal as a joint venture, creating those agreements, but how can you actually work your portfolio to maximize and create cultures where it is okay to collaborate with each other?
Patrick: So, I mean, this is great, because it’s not just culture isn’t just micro, here is macro on the other side, and that’s a great place where you can be brought in because you’re proven at that level. You’ve done it at that level as well. Laurin, we’re having this conversation just after first of the year. So we’re all getting used to change on writing 2022 now on the dates instead of 2021. So it’s going to take a little while for people to do it, but we’ll all change and then we’ll be sitting in 2023 but what do you see going forward either with Kotter or macro change M&A? And what do you see for the coming year?
Laurin: I would say, in general, and this isn’t necessarily for 2022. But it’s been a general progression in recent years that there’s more acceptance around what’s considered the quote unquote, softer side of deals and culture. You’re not as frequently getting that eye roll. When you say culture in a boardroom, as you might have 10, 15 years ago. Where people were like, oh, it’s culture, okay, wonderful. Like, that’s not necessarily happening anymore. And, for example, we were working with a firm and within a year, they actually referenced culture at a 22% increase in that one year timeframe after we started working with them.
And directly targeted in their annual report, the reason behind their incredible success during the pandemic, was because the culture that they had fostered beforehand. And culture is more and more seen as that differentiator within an industry to say we have a strong culture where people want to work, and especially when you’re starting to think about the great recession. And as people are leaving organizations, when you’re doing an integration, as we talked about a little bit before doing things to people and activating that survive mindset, you have a more vulnerable employee population who is more quickly going to have that thought bubble of, if I can’t define this for myself, and I no longer have control, why don’t I leave?
And it’s already prevalent, but it’s even more so in these target companies. So something to absolutely be aware of, as you’re going through in the next year of how do you really retain the talent and the culture of your target, and integrate some of their best practices and their culture into the acquiring company, and create the best of both.
Patrick: You mentioned the softer side, the two biggest developments in the last couple years. You’ve got ESG and the awareness of that. And then culture is hand in glove with that. So I agree completely with you is that going forward. Laurin Parthemos it’s been a pleasure having you here. For our audience members who are interested in this, how can our audience members find you and Kotter?
Laurin: Absolutely. So you can find Kotter on our website at kotterinc.com. I have a lot of resources there and various different articles or background research that we’ve done. You can find me personally at email@example.com. I will not go through the trouble of spelling that you can easily look on your podcast page. Check out the show notes. It will be there. And then you can also find me on LinkedIn. I’m more than happy to speak with anyone who’s interested personally.
Patrick: Well great. Laurin Parthemos of Kotter, thank you so much for being here today.
Laurin: Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
When you sell your house, one of the best ways to get noticed by potential buyers is to “stage” the home. This is interior design. Nice furniture and décor. No personal items or family photos. No family photos on the wall. No crazy paint schemes on the wall.
Some sellers even hire professional decorators to arrange their homes in this way.
Similarly, in the M&A world, if you want to use Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance, you should be prepared to stage your deal to make it more appealing to Underwriters who would be approving and writing your policy.
Doing so will get your deal noticed and your policy priced appropriately.
Why should you have to jump through hoops for a policy you pay for? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that insurers were hawking R&W coverage to anyone who would listen…?
Things have changed.
As I mentioned in my article, “Bandwidth,” the problem is that Underwriters are overwhelmed right now.
R&W coverage has become standard in many circles, including PE firms and Strategic Buyers. It’s more popular than ever as M&A players have come to understand its benefits, that claims are paid properly and on time, and that this specialized insurance can actually smooth negotiation and speed up deal-making.
Combine that with an increase in M&A activity overall and, in particular, a rise in the number of so-called mega deals of $1B+ in transaction value (TV), which get priority from Underwriters…
And the result is that the teams of Underwriters out there (who are also short-staffed as companies can’t hire enough people fast enough to meet demand) simply don’t have the capacity to research and understand all the deals and determine coverage and terms for all the Buyers and Sellers out there who want a policy.
In fact, insurers are actually declining to cover otherwise great risks because their Underwriters lack bandwidth. They’re just stretched too thin. Actually, national insurance brokers are not covering deals under $400M in transaction value in most cases.
Unfortunately, that means to secure R&W coverage for your deals, you have to be prepared to put in some legwork. And while there are some common themes, there is also industry-specific prep you must consider depending on what space your deal is in.
First, the best way to stage your deal is preparing your due diligence. The goal: to make the Underwriters life easier and make less work for them. Ninety percent of R&W policies are buy-side, which means it’s up to the Buyer to do the prep work.
In this case, that means:
1. Having all the proper due diligence done before approaching the Underwriter. Loop in your experts now, including your lawyers and accountants. Identify potential areas of concern…and have answers or solutions ready.
Have that work done upfront so the Underwriter can review quickly, have their most common concerns mollified, and write that policy. And the Buyer should also be prepared to address any new concerns or requests for new documentation that come up.
2. You know the concept of supply and demand. Demand goes up, supply goes down…costs go up. That is what is happening with R&W policies. So, plan for increases in due diligence costs, insurance costs…and higher R&W premiums. Prepare any decision-makers for these increased costs to prevent delays.
Something to note. If you have a deal under $400M TV, forget going to one of those nationwide brokers as they simply don’t have the time for you. You need to look for a boutique broker, somebody regional, somebody experienced. This goes the same for any law or accounting firms you want to work with on the due diligence process. Oh, and be sure to contact these firms ASAP and get on their calendar. They’re busy too.
Also, healthcare, technology, service businesses, restaurant industry, entertainment…every industry has its own little processes you should follow to best stage your deal.
More on that in a future article.
For now, if you’re working on a deal and are worried that R&W coverage might not be available to you, as a boutique broker with long-time experience with this insurance product, I’m happy to chat with you.
You can contact me Patrick Stroth, at firstname.lastname@example.org.