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deal terms from a seller’s view to understand what is truly mission-critical is paramount to me. “Making one plus one equal something more than two is a joy. Watching former owners of businesses connect, cross-pollinate, and work jointly on files to grow revenue is a fantastic feeling.” TZL: Since you’ve been working in the business, what’s the greatest evolution you’ve seen in how business is done? CB: By far, it has been COVID and how that has led to more remote meetings and work. This has been quite helpful in the M&A world, as it is now more acceptable to hold initial meetings virtually. On the other hand, it makes an in-person visit all the more valuable, if you show the extra bit of care. TZL: What are some of the most important factors to consider when entering into a merger or acquisition? CB: While I could focus on strategic fit or financial profile, unquestionably the leading indicator of a successful acquisition versus a failed one is cultural match. The only failed acquisitions I see are when two companies come together and, regardless of how well the products or services fit, there was not proper diligence done for the method by which each company completes its work. This leads to employee attrition and poorly-served clients. TZL: What do you feel will be a top challenge in your business in say the next five years? What is your company doing to meet that challenge? CB: Employee retention has become a top priority and we view both the inflationary environment and work-from-home trends to be the two that drive employee retention. Creating a vibrant company culture is paramount to ensure a business is able to retain top talent despite these trends. Having the flexibility to work remotely is a top concern now, yet it is difficult to build an excellent culture without the ability to bring people together. Therefore, we are focused on having strong physical presences in major hubs (both within and outside of the U.S.) where employees have the ability to collaborate if necessary.

TZL: How many acquisitions has J.S. Held completed in the past three years? CB: Thirty. However, we view our acquisitions as “partnerships.” Each and every acquisition we do is either to further develop an existing service line or to expand into an adjacent service. Firms that “acquire to acquire” often run into snags in building a cohesive business. We fully integrate businesses and provide a global J.S. Held brand, which we believe leads to collaboration. TZL: How does J.S. Held attract so many strong acquisition partners in such a competitive M&A environment? What differentiates you? CB: We have a significant focus during our diligence process on integration and I believe this shows. I firmly believe that few firms are as focused on the success of the staff coming over and the continued joint entity running as smoothly as we do. There is a lot to think about around integration including, HR, marketing, business development, finance, accounting, technology, etc., which many acquirers put aside simply to get a transaction closed. For us, once the deal closes, we have plans, processes, and teams in place to ensure we’re not maniacally trying to figure out, “what’s next?” That sense of calm planning seems to have worked its way around our industry. TZL: What advice would you have for a buyer or seller who is considering M&A for the first time? CB: For a first-time acquirer or seller, ensure your legal and financial advisors are not only strong, but have significant M&A experience. Quite often we meet sellers who will use a general business lawyer or a personal accountant, as the rates may be cheaper. However, what you lose in fees with firms that have significant M&A experience, you more than gain back in improved offer terms. See BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS, page 8 “I find it vital to continue recognizing that a business often is a life’s work realized and someone is parting with that. To approach the deal terms from a seller’s view to understand what is truly mission-critical is paramount to me.”




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TOBER 17, 2022, ISSUE 1461

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