Lately, the question I am asked the most (and it is not even close) by clients, co-workers, friends, family, etc. is “How is it going with the new owners?” I understand why, because two years ago when we were considering selling our life’s work to SQS, most people thought it would be a mistake. Their comments were all along these lines: “don’t trust them, they will take over and you won’t be able to stop them,” or “they will do stupid things because they won’t know your business or your market,” or “they will change everything and blow all your hard work.” My favorite was from a friend of mine, a CFO who himself had been acquired, he said, “Keith I know you – three months and you’ll quit, No way you put up with anyone telling you what to do with Trissential.”
Since our experience has been anything but the aforementioned, I wanted to dedicate a blog to what we have learned since the acquisition. In order to do this, I need to set the background.
SQS was looking for a management consulting company to partner with and help them launch in the U.S. market where they previously had not made a footprint. SQS has a strong presence in Europe, and they wanted to bring their “World Leader in Quality Assurance” message to the C Suite in the U.S… now fast forward to the lunch I attended two years ago, where I met SQS’s CEO and CFO to see if they could provide value to Trissential’s clients. I admit, I was very skeptical they could make me comfortable enough with who they were, and what they did, and to put my 20+ year client relationships on the line by vouching for them. Everything changed within 30 minutes.
CEO Dik Voss started by telling me all about the business model and market position they believed in. I was fascinated as it was exactly the same as Trissential’s stance. He then spoke to how they do business and what their belief system is. Again, I was caught off guard with our similarities. Finally, Dik discussed what he believed the industry needed to make significant positive advancement, and I was captivated with how our two companies could work together and bring tremendous value to our clients. Today, he still describes that meeting as “love at first sight” and I completely agree.
So, how can our acquisition have gone so well, while many folks I know would describe their experience as a nightmare? I am sure there are business books, whitepapers, etc. on how to size up whether to be acquired or not, but we did not read one. We certainly did our financial homework, and all the “head” knowledge that experts would recommend, but the final decision was all about “heart” knowledge. Here are the top attributes that come to mind when I think about why we said yes, confirming we made the right decision:
- From the first meeting on, the CEO and CFO seemed like honest men – they looked me in the eye and answered questions effortlessly
- CEO and CFO seemed like men who truly believed in their company
- No ego – CEO and CFO of 400M company in 34 countries, and humility was their dominant trait
- Our company’s offerings were compatible; both were successful individually, and provided value to each of our clients, but together the value would explode 1 + 1 = 3+
- Throughout the process, they talked about how both companies would benefit – it had the feeling of an equal partnership more than acquirer and acquiree
- As months went by during the process, their story never changed – they were consistent on what they wanted and the roles both companies would play
- Their passion for our company was always evident; they gave us the feeling we built something great and they wanted to be a part of it. It was real, heartfelt, true and honest flattery
- When we “checked them out” doing our backdoor references and research, their story checked out on all fronts
- As we met more SQS team members during the process, the story stayed the same. Everyone was on the same page
- Peace – that was the overall mood through the entire process. We never had even a slight inkling this was not a match made in Heaven. Peace in our souls
When I run this “Top 10 List” by the folks who gave me their opinions listed in the first paragraph, it is incredible how they cannot relate. Honesty, humility, passion, and peace are the last words they use to describe their feelings during the process. It seems the writing was on the wall with their acquisitions and that maybe it was more of a bottom line decision than a healthy decision. It makes me wonder how many mergers and acquisitions are for the right reasons and how many are not. One thing I know now from experience – it’s another marriage, and research shows marriages tend to go better for people who truly value their partner and commit to working hard to protect and care about the relationship. That has been our experience with SQS, and I am so thankful for it.
Thanks for reading,