“The truth is mistakes happen. The accepted data says that most mergers and acquisitions don’t work out.” – Martin Sikora, professor of management and editor of Mergers & Acquisitions: The Dealmaker’s Journal
Mergers and acquisitions are complicated. Like, really complicated. A simple mistake at any point can delay the deal, derail the process, and potentially cost your company millions.
No matter how highly trained or experienced a person is with M&A procedures, human error happens. In fact, errors are more likely to occur in processes we’re overly familiar with. Once we’ve performed a task so many times that we “know” the steps, we tend to run on autopilot, which means routine actions can be overlooked or forgotten.
Making a mistake during a process with as much risk and expense as a merger or acquisition can ruin one or both companies. This makes having a thorough, well-documented process is an absolute must for any M&A executive.
After analyzing the main reasons mergers fail, I’ve used that knowledge to build several Process Street workflow templates for essential M&A processes. Feel free to jump ahead if you’re looking for a particular template, or continue reading for a walkthrough of all the features these workflows use:
- M&A processes: Plan to plan – and plan again
- M&A Target Search Process
- M&A Strategy Checklist
- M&A Due Diligence Checklist
- M&A Acquisition Checklist
- Post-Merger Integration Checklist
- Process optimization & Automations with Process Street
M&A processes: Plan to plan – and plan again
Only one-third of mergers actually creates shareholder value. And the rest? According to Martin Sikora, one-third doesn’t meet expectations, and one-third destroys the value of the company. A generous estimate places the failure rate at roughly 50% to 80%.
Think about that: Best case scenario, you only have a 50/50 chance of success.
The biggest cause? Chris Barbin (CEO) says it comes down to a lack of execution.
“[T]here is a great deal to execute on in an M&A deal. […] Running a business and integrating two companies is like having two different jobs and both are equally important.” – Chris Barbin, CEO, Founder, Entrepreneur
With all the moving parts the M&A process has, it’s easy to get distracted by things that seem important in the short term, but don’t ultimately have any long-term value. As Barbin points out, you also have to maintain your day-to-day business in the midst of deciding how to manage your property and assets, reassuring employees and customers, and making sure all the legal I’s are dotted and T’s crossed.
To accomplish this, you need a plan. More accurately, you need a process.
A process only works well if people follow it. People will only follow a process that makes their lives easier. This means that teams need to be able to document and share their important processes, and those processes need to constantly improve over time to suit your evolving needs.
With that in mind, the following workflows are designed to take the documentation stage off your plate. These workflows cover the most vital aspects of the M&A process so you can easily ensure consistency, efficiency, and accuracy every step of the way.
M&A Target Search Process
The first part of any M&A project is conducting your Target search. Like any relationship, you want to make sure you’re a good match before making that permanent commitment. As you proceed through this workflow, you’ll be prompted to consider and evaluate your motivations and expectations so you can be confident that when you find the right Target company, they really are The One.
While the search leader is expected to be the primary user of this workflow, the Approvals feature allows you to review their progress and authorize important steps – from your desktop, your mobile device, or even via Slack.
This template uses Approvals, which allow you to streamline any processes that need authorization by another person. The Dynamic Due Dates allow you to affect a task’s due date based on varying factors unique to each of your workflow runs.
M&A Strategy Checklist
I’ve seen what’s out there, and I know most of it is all about the Buyer. Sure, they’re taking a big risk by investing, but as the Seller, you have a lot at stake, too. A comprehensive M&A strategy is absolutely essential – especially if you’re in the market to find a potential Buyer.
Using the Conditional Logic feature, this workflow is suitable whether you’ve already been approached by an interested company or plan to conduct your own search. With Conditional Logic, build paths into your workflows that change depending on actions that occur within the workflow run. Conditional Logic uses if-this-then-that logic to create truly dynamic workflows that suit a variety of situations.
Variables essentially act as placeholders for information that you can push data into. With them, you can pre-populate tasks with details unique to that workflow run to save time on data entry or copying information from one place to another.
M&A Due Diligence Checklist
A lot of focus is put on going over the numbers when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. The financial side is certainly important to the overall success of the merger, but it shouldn’t be your only consideration.
Process Street’s VP of Marketing – who’s been on both sides of the acquisition process – agreed:
“In my experience, a disproportionate amount of time is spent on the financial planning, and not enough planning is spent on the technological and the human planning.” – Bryan Sise
This workflow covers everything from organizational structure to regulatory compliance. Using Role Assignments, you can assign specific tasks to different users in various roles on your team. This is particularly useful for larger teams where there may be more than one person in a role that can complete a task.
Several of the Approval tasks utilize the Stop Task feature. This will stop a workflow run at a given point. No tasks past that point (or the workflow run itself) can be completed until the stop task is completed. This ensures that vital steps can’t be skipped over and that processes are followed in a specific order.
(There’s also a simplified risk assessment you can do before approving the final report.)
M&A Acquisition Checklist
This workflow was designed with the prospective Buyer in mind. The primary focus is to establish strategies and provide a central location for all your acquisition documentation. Using Form Fields like the file upload field will enable you to collect copies of all your correspondence and reports regarding the acquisition.
If you need to break a complex task into smaller steps, you can create small lists of items called Subtasks that can be checked off within a task. You can also make each Subtask required so each step has to be completed before the task can be checked off.
Post-Merger Integration (PMI) Checklist
Post-merger integrations can be an ordeal. Even if you outsource to M&A experts, there is quite a lot to keep track of – including those experts. The Post-Merger Integration Checklist will guide you through every step of a basic PMI process. In addition, you’ll also be able to use features like the File Upload and Email fields to document important information such as contact details, success metrics, and meeting records.
Unexpected obstacles will always pop up, but the PMI Process Checklist will help you prepare for the worst and make your integration run smoothly.
In each of these workflows, the Video Widget feature has been used to add rich media assets. In this case, I’ve included instructional and informative videos to certain tasks using their YouTube URLS. You can also upload the video or use an embed code.
Process optimization & Automations with Process Street
The process management needs of today’s companies have evolved. Unfortunately, many vendors in the legacy process management software category have not evolved with those needs.
Process Street is a process management platform for the modern team. We make it easy to create workflows with an intuitive no-code workflow builder and pre-built customizable workflow templates, like the ones featured in this post.
To give you an idea of some possible customizations you can add to any – or all – of these workflow templates, in this section I’ll cover some popular features included in these workflows, as well as a few additional tricks you can use to add even more functionality to your processes.
Important processes usually require multiple software tools. But there isn’t a consistent way to make sure the entire process gets done the right way. Even with single tools, it’s difficult to manage all the touchpoints and actions across multiple stakeholders.
Process Street Automations combine the power of these applications with the safety and control of a checklist. Create and run custom processes using built-in functionality from some of the world’s most popular apps for work like DocuSign and Slack.
When it comes to your M&A processes, you can incorporate a DocuSign automation to send a contract to another stakeholder once a task is completed in a workflow. This will save loads of time when it comes to signing exclusivity agreements and NDAs during negotiations.
You can also use these first-party Automations within Process Street itself. For example, you’re running the M&A Acquisition Checklist and want to kick off the M&A Due Diligence Checklist when you get to that task. You can set an Automation to trigger that workflow when a particular task is completed.
Watch the full webinar here to learn more about everything you can do with Process Street Automations.
Zapier connects your apps together so that you can trigger tasks behind the scenes. Essentially, it functions as a cause-and-effect system, similar to our workflow’s Conditional Logic: If A happens, then do B.
With Zapier integrations you could trigger an email to be sent when a task is checked off, or generate Trello cards for new checklists. The Process Street content creation team uses Zapier to create and update tasks on our Airtable Kanban board as we work through various workflow tasks.
These triggers create a seamless workflow where all stakeholders are kept informed of important details as they happen – without worrying about a wayward email or a message that didn’t get sent.
A final word on M&A processes
Now you have some solid workflows to get you through your M&A process, and some tips on how to optimize those workflows even more. I’ve covered a lot of ground already, so I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice.
Our Content and Operations Manager, Blake Bailey, is responsible for building the processes that solve an organization’s pain points. Having custom-built workflows specifically for acquisitions, he boiled it down to two points:
“A solid process during an acquisition is important for two reasons: 1. A lot of stuff needs to happen and 2. It all needs to be done exactly right because the stakes are extremely high in these situations.”
What system do you use to keep track of your processes? Have you set up a digital knowledge base or are you still chained to a massive binder?