Over September, we observed high-profile deals from prolific knowledge-intensive services acquirers across a variety of transforming spaces of the consulting market, including digital transformation, Salesforce consulting, real estate advisory, benefits consulting and traditional business consulting. In the last month, Equiteq advised four of its clients on the sale of their business to the practice of a larger group.
How do you ensure a succession plan works? When should you start considering succession planning? Penny de Valk, Equiteq specialist in leadership development and human capital, addressed these and other front-of-mind questions of business owners in the Q&A of our recent succession webinar.
The main issues raised included:
Recruiting new leaders: internal versus external
Sharing equity to attract and engage
Handling founders’ syndrome and the exit transition
What do you see as the pros and cons of appointing a CEO from within the firm compared with recruiting from outside?
There’s no right or wrong here. With an internal candidate you get someone who is steeped in the values and the market, someone who really understands the organization. That can have huge advantages, but if you are looking for exponential growth, or a shift in thinking, it may be best to recruit externally. It is important to begin with what you need, really spend time on ‘what good looks like’ then assess your existing people against this. You can spot the potential inside and develop it. You find people from within the business who are just as ambitious and are just as visionary about what the organization could be, not just what the organization was. The rule of thumb would be: for organizations that are not in true start-up mode, but are half way through their maturity, it is probably half and half. The important thing is there is a good mix of capability, experience and potential.
Accenture acquired creative agency Wire Stone, which provides a range of strategy and marketing campaign services that develop digital consumer experiences. Wire Stone was founded in 2000 in San Francisco and has built a reputation for the use of technology and data to improve marketing campaign return on investment. The business has worked with a number of blue-chip clients including, Microsoft, HP, PayPal and eBay.
As highlighted in our latest quarterly M&A update, Accenture continues to be highly acquisitive and is developing Accenture Interactive’s capabilities and talent across marketing and consulting. According to a recent report by Adweek, Accenture Interactive’s projected 2017 revenue of $6bn places it above Havas Worldwide, although it is not a holding company and therefore does not rank among the “Big Six” of WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Havas, IPG and Dentsu.
Knowledge-intensive services firms can achieve faster growth and reduce founder dependency through diversifying management roles, smart succession planning and equity incentive schemes. These steps support higher future exit values, better deal structures and increase the likelihood of achieving earn out targets if key people are retained and share in the earn out.
From the founder’s point of view, introducing equity incentives will probably be one of the largest investments the company makes so it’s really important to get this right.
Too often tax planning takes crowds out the more important process of designing a commercially effective scheme. Tax is important, but an approach that ensures the growth and exit vision is aligned by evaluating how much value to share, with who and over what time period should come first.
Equiteq’s quarterly market updates provide an indicative guide to current M&A market conditions in the consulting industry. However, it should be noted that we typically observe large variations between quarterly M&A volumes, which are not always reflective of longer term trends.
M&A activity was mixed in the second quarter after a strong start to the year. Overall global deal activity in the consulting sector fell by 12% quarter-on-quarter. Deal volumes fell by just 2% on the same quarter last year. The Equiteq Consulting Share Price Index rallied in the second quarter, achieving similar returns to the S&P 500.
DXC Technology acquires Microsoft Dynamics 365 specialist Tribridge
DXC Technology made its first acquisition after forming in April following the merger of CSC and the Enterprise Services unit of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology giant acquired 740-person Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting firm Tribridge and its managed cloud business Concerto Cloud Services. The deal is expected to enhance the buyer’s consulting offerings focused on clients in health care, government, consumer packaged goods, and professional services.
Tribridge is one of the largest independent integrators of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and is a six-time winner of Dynamics 365 Worldwide and U.S. Partner of the Year. Tribridge will become part of DXC Eclipse, an IT application consulting business acquired by the business in October 2015 for c.$300m.
A no-surprises and smooth due diligence (DD) process underpins every successful deal, closed on the terms agreed before exclusivity. Ideally confirmatory in nature rather than a voyage of discovery, DD provides comfort to the potential acquirer and helps the vendor agree a better set of share purchase agreement warranties and indemnities. On the flip side, material surprises can lead to adverse re-negotiations and a drawn-out process can be distracting and lead to financial under performance.
There is a golden rule in M&A: issues will fill the available time. Being well prepared and due diligence ready is key to driving a fast completion process, protecting value and shoring up buyers’ confidence.
In some jurisdictions, commissioning vendor due diligence is quite common. It enables sellers to manage the timetable, better prepare for buyer due diligence and by disclosing reports to the final shortlisted parties, mitigates issues while there is competitive tension in the sale process. As ever, the benefits need to be weighed against the costs.