O P I N I O N
If you’re trying to buy or thinking about buying another company in this business, here are a few things that may be helpful to you. Things I’ve learned about buying A/E firms
A fter 41 years of working in this business – including being an owner of multiple firms and advisor to so many others – I have been involved in one way or another with literally hundreds of A/E and environmental consulting firm acquisitions. I may not have quite as much experience as my old friend, George Christodoulo (Lawson & Weitzen) – the triple Harvard graduate Boston-based attorney I first met about 30 years ago – but it’s safe to say I have worked on more of these things than most.
If you are involved in trying to buy or thinking about buying another company (or companies) in this business, here are a few things I have learned that may be helpful to you: 1)No one HAS to sell their business. Many more should want to sell than probably do, however. But back on my original statement. I have worked with sellers who were in desperate need to sell – their lines of credit were maxed out and out of compliance with their loan covenants, their lenders told them to find a new bank, their company-owned real estate loans were upside down and couldn’t be renewed, they were writing personal checks every week to meet payroll, and their business was completely falling apart, yet they still delayed and had inflated ideas about what someone would pay for their business. When it comes to your own business, too
many owners (in my opinion) are willing to go down with the ship. It’s hard to give up that freedom that comes from your own business. 2)A/E firms are fragile. What you bought could be lost overnight if you do the wrong things. What do I mean by that? When buying companies, the most important thing is figuring out what you have to change and what you have to keep in the company you are acquiring. It’s easy to screw things up by doing unnecessary things that alienate employees or annoy clients. For example, maybe it isn’t necessary to force compliance with an 8 a.m. work start time when the employees have all planned their lives around a 9 a.m. start. Maybe requiring the acquired company to get rid of their business development people and work with “corporate” BD in the parent
See MARK ZWEIG, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER FEBRUARY 22, 2021, ISSUE 1380
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