The first step to a successful #merger or #acquisition is to determine whether the owners will be compatible

The best way to understand compatibility is to compare a business combination to a marriage. A long lasting and good marriage will be preceded by an effective exploration of each other during the dating period. Business combinations and marriages fail when the parties ignore or downplay compatibility conflicts. It is typical human nature to think that things will work out, so sticky topics are sometimes not discussed.

The key is whether or not the owners will get along as partners, not socially. The business personality "fit" between owners is key. They need to be of similar mindset regarding their business philosophies, goals for the firm, when they want to retire and how the firm will be perpetuated, who should manage what based on the owners' best talents, etc. We know that if the owners get along well and there is harmony at the top, the employees will be much happier and things will click in the operation.

Each owner in each firm should make a list of their own personal goals and wish lists for their future. The list needs to include: compensation expectations, the management and sales role they want, perks they expect, the hours they want to work and vision for the future of the firm.

If the owners are nearing retirement age, they should also be very specific about: when they expect to retire; what future duties they want to have; what price they expect for their stock and what "perks" they expect to continue to receive until they fully retire (i.e. an office, car, health insurance, T&E expenses, etc.).

If the owners want to internally perpetuate, their expectations for their buy-out need to be realistic in relation to the cash flow available from the firm's activities.

2. Complementary Strengths and Weaknesses

Each party should make two lists. The first list is the owner's own personal major strengths and weaknesses and a second list of strengths and weaknesses for their firm. These lists should then be exchanged with the other party or parties.
The goal is to see if each party will complement the other by minimizing weaknesses and maximizing strengths. It may be very apparent from such an analysis that the combination may just make each party's weaknesses worse and/or will not help improve the problems each firm faces.