Are you a hunter or a farmer?
The farmer-hunter analogy
Being ‘scientific’ about buy side M&A has many advantages. In fact, in a competitive environment or a ‘sellers’ market’, it is arguably the only way to succeed in affording the valuations and getting deals done.
In such a market, it is our contention that a company will not succeed if it behaves like a farmer rather than a hunter. Let’s first define the analogy:
The ‘farmer’ waits for acquisition opportunities to arrive. They stay beside their ‘field’, hoping for the ‘seasons’ to bring what they will. Even if they plant seeds, they are still in waiting mode.
The ‘hunter’ tracks down the right companies and wins them before competitors.
In the M&A context, the farmer is offered the occasional company, but it rarely fits the profile of what they are looking for. Then, they have to compete with other acquirers in the auction process. So, the farmer ends up paying a lot for companies that are not a perfect fit. Even if the acquirer actively plants seeds and waits for the ‘right time’, the right time is usually when the owner decides to sell and invites them to compete in the auction!
The hunter, by contrast, seeks out exactly the companies with the greatest synergy, persuades them to be acquired and also persuades them not to talk to other acquirers. The hunter thus determines their own ‘destiny’.
Importantly the hunter is also focused on finding targets in the ‘sweet spot’ which we define as being the group of targets that are neither totally unwilling to sell nor planning to sell and launch an auction process.
The farmer gets less deals, pays too much when they do get them, and can rarely choose exactly what they want. The hunter gets the right company at the right price that no one else can find. The difference could hardly be more stark.
Some acquirers say they are committed to hunting but, when it comes down to it, they simply want the hunter’s advantage of a greater volume of less expensive opportunities without making the necessary time and effort for hunting to actually work. They want to have their cake and eat it, which isn’t possible. We call such a company a ‘farmer in hunter’s clothing’.
Be careful of ‘half winning’
One output of hunting is a greater volume of opportunities.
This can be achieved with the sacrifice of time, combined with the proper methodology of a good roadmap, good research, persuasion expertise to get in the door, and being willing to accept rejection for a percentage of the outcomes.
However, the second and valuable output of hunting is a greater volume of ‘real’ opportunities.
For this to occur, after getting in the door, the hunter needs to make the further commitment of playing the game according to 1-on-1 M&A. This requires time commitment as well as following expert advice on how to capture the hearts and minds of the owners.
The first output is irrelevant unless it is followed by the second – otherwise, it will be a Pyrrhic victory of many opportunities but not catching any of them.
No free lunch for the hunter
The rewards of hunting properly far out way the efforts, but the efforts are still significant. Do you have what it takes in commitment to reap the rewards?
The five principal rewards fit directly with the deliverables of the ThinkingLinking techniques.
The commitment of allocating enough time is backed up by many aspects of our hunting methodology and support such as Deep Criteria Analysis, 'Total Universe' attitude, Target Scoring, 'Opening the door' skills and our 1-on-1 techniques.