Why Your Management Team Isn't As Important As You Think
Over at SellabilityScore.com, we've been studying the factors that contribute to both getting an acquisition offer for your business and the value of the offers acquirers make. Our latest analysis was completed in the first two weeks of July 2014 and included 9,779 businesses.
For me, one of the most interesting findings in the research is how little having a management team matters to the overall sellability of your business. At first blush this may sound counterintuitive to advice you've heard elsewhere. After all, building a management team is one of the common pieces of counsel provided to any new entrepreneur.
Personally, I found that having a management team of senior leaders helped me to run my last company. When it comes to getting an offer, however, companies with a management team are only slightly more likely to get an unsolicited acquisition offer than those without one (17 percent vs. 16 percent). What's more, when we analyzed multiples offered, having a management team in place did not increase the value of offers received.
Keep in mind that most of the factors we measured had a significant impact on offer multiples, so the absence of any lift among companies with a management team is surprising and noteworthy. For example, having a monopoly on your product or service increases offer multiples by an average of 43 percent, while growing your top line revenue by 30 percent or more juices your likely offer multiple by 33 percent. So it came as a surprise to us how little having a management team matters when it comes to either getting an offer or the offer's value.
Please don't misinterpret my comments here. I'm not saying don't build a management team. I am, however, saying a management team on its own has no statistical relationship either to getting an acquisition offer or to the multiple being offered.
The C-Suite Liability
One possible explanation for this apparent disconnect can be found in the way acquirers deal with managers after an acquisition. When a big company buys a little one in the same industry, most acquirers are keen to integrate the new division in order to realize the strategic benefits of the acquisition.
When you integrate, you get duplication among management roles, which means the acquiring company needs to run with two people doing one job or let go the weaker of the two managers. Under either scenario, the duplication of managers is a liability to the acquiring company that they have to deal with post-acquisition.
This duplication is most pronounced in the finance department, which the acquiring company will typically integrate within weeks of an acquisition.
The Alternative To a C-Suite Team
So what should you do as a business owner keen to increase the value of your company and have a life outside of the office? You may want to consider hiring a Second-in-Command (2iC). In a survey of M&A professionals we did back in 2012, we found that having a 2iC made a company more attractive to an acquirer than any other management position.
Part of the reason 2iCs are so attractive to acquirers is that they see a 2iC as someone who will stick around post-sale and help them run the business they have just bought. Unlike a functional executive (e.g., CFO, VP Marketing) where duplication almost always exists, a 2iC is a general manager with enough knowledge to help the acquirer realize the benefits of their purchase. What's more, most acquirers know that you, the owner, will be a flight risk once their check clears, and that they are more likely to be able to put an attractive compensation plan in place for a 2iC who did not benefit financially from the sale as much as the owner.
If you're keen to build a great company over the coming decades, by all means hire a management team. If your goal, however, is to sell your business in the next couple of years, focus your resources on a solid 2iC that the acquirer can retain after an acquisition.
JOHN WARRILLOW | Columnist | Sellability
John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You and the founder of The Sellability Score, a cloud-based software company that helps business owners improve the value of their company.