The Makings of a Merger
There’s a vast difference between knowing a change is necessary and knowing the necessary steps to make a desired change. Just ask industry veteran Dave DeWitt—no relation—who set out to bolster his Detroit-based distributorship, ACE, against the slings and arrows of a harsh economy. In and of itself, ACE lacked sufficient resources to remain successful in a fiercely competitive marketplace facing an uncertain future.
November 2006 was an especially bad sales month for ACE and the writing, said DeWitt, was clearly on the wall. “I have a right-hand person, but she couldn’t anticipate what [was] going to happen and how we should react, either. I mean, give us a task and we’ll get it done. But, strategizing where we want to go, how we are going to get there and looking at new options isn’t our expertise, especially since we’re operating a small organization where we’re doing everything ourselves.”
Partnering with another distributorship appeared to be the solution; setting the process in motion, however, proved to be the challenge. So, DeWitt just started doing what sales professionals do best when pursuing a deal—he talked to people.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
“My approach was to first see if I could speak with someone locally who had already gone through [a merger]; not because I was necessarily looking to work with [that particular company], but [because] I wanted to find out what [the owners] went through, the issues they had to think about, the actual process, even the pitfalls,” reflected DeWitt. He initially investigated opportunities with a couple of the larger national distributorship networks. Although there was tremendous support from the corporate offices, DeWitt felt he wanted more face-to-face interaction with people on a daily basis for brainstorming and discussing new ideas.
In December of ’06, he learned of a distributorship in Detroit that had fairly recently sold its business, and arranged a lunch meeting with the former owner. “I explained I was thinking of selling or merging my company and wanted to know about his experience,” continued DeWitt.
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