How to Win An Agency Acquisition
April 26, 2022 •Oak Street Funding
If you are considering an agency acquisition but have paused plans due to rising interest rates and multiples, do not despair. Even with the expected rate increases, capital is still readily available and relatively affordable. You may not have the highest offer, but the best acquisition deals are based on fit and price. With these tips, you can win a profitable acquisition that will bring you long-term success.
Whether you are actively looking to buy or want to be prepared should the opportunity arise, there are steps you can take before you begin the acquisition process to ensure success. Not every agency looking to sell will benefit your agency. Keep your strategic focus top of mind and only pursue transactions that are right for your key objectives, so you don’t waste time investigating agencies that aren’t a good fit. Consider the seller’s carrier contracts, location, and client books. Will the acquisition contribute to your long-term value plan? Knowing what you want ahead of time will make it easier to quickly identify a good acquisition opportunity.
Acquisition negotiations are both art and science. The science involves structuring the deal to account for how much equity to put toward the deal, how much of an earn out or seller note will be determined, and the right amount of third-party debt. Successful acquirers have mastered the art of evaluating acquisitions based on agreed-upon principles and walking away from transactions if they spot any deal-breakers. Turning down an acquisition may seem counter to ‘winning’ an acquisition, but the goal is quality, not quantity. It is important to consider why the seller is leaving, how long they plan to stay with the agency after selling, and who in the agency holds the key relationships with clients. These considerations during the acquisition will help you determine if the seller’s agency will remain profitable after the acquisition.
Stick with a disciplined process to evaluate the attractiveness of a potential acquisition and don’t be afraid to step away from any transaction that is less than ideal. The right acquisition will happen if you stay committed to the process and your principles.
During this time, frequent communication with both teams is vital. Closed door meetings fuel the rumor mill and lead to anxiety. Keep the employees of both agencies informed and involved in the process as much as possible. Being open and direct with employees will encourage them and their clients to stay with the agency after the acquisition.
The best acquisition will fail if the two agencies do not integrate effectively and fall apart shortly after the transaction. To prevent this from happening, develop standardized processes that consider business operations and focus on culture and people. Will the new employees have to adapt to new processes and culture, or will there be a mix of the two agencies’ cultures? Regardless, leaders must actively cultivate a culture that promotes inclusion and growth of every employee in the new organization.
The market for acquisitions remains high despite the increasing rates and threats of geopolitical turmoil and agency owners planning to grow by acquisition should continue with their strategy. Winning an acquisition requires diligence and dedication before, during, and after an acquisition. Start with a strategic focus and commit to your plan. During the acquisition, stick to your principles, be disciplined, and communicate frequently with employees and clients. After the acquisition, follow the integration plan and cultivate a positive company culture. With these tips in mind, you will be off to a great start to winning an acquisition in 2022.
Disclaimer: Please note, Oak Street Funding does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of fact or recommendation, does not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal or tax advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining valuation services or professional, legal or tax advice.