Preparing your search brochure
Creating a “leave behind” document for a prospective seller is a very personal and unique opportunity to get your message across to a business owner. A single page presentation is also useful for the intermediary who wants to get a sense of who you are, and the kinds of opportunities you are seeking.
If you put these documents on your website, you miss a great opportunity to interact with a proprietary prospect or broker in a “trust building” situation. Almost 40% of a sample of 25 searcher websites had a link to a brochure. It is best to release these under your own control rather than through an anonymous web-page download.
Creating the content for a seller
Once you have completed your website, creating a one-page summary in Powerpoint or a publishing program will be relatively simple and quick. Avoid the temptation of uploading them to your site. The allocation of content should be 10% about yourself, 10% on your targeted industry, 40% on why you are a better alternative than either Private Equity or a “synergistic” buyer, and, finally, 40% on the search process.
You – This is your chance to put your search firm name, logo and your photo on a single page, with a brief summary of your background and goal of owning and running a business. Be careful of the fancy titles you may have had in prior jobs and referencing your MBA – this will be on your LinkedIn profile, so don’t waste the valuable space. It is important to say what you are not – growth capital, a minority or passive stakeholder, or fresh capital for a distressed business.
Your Target – Your “sweet spot” should be distilled into a very short list of criteria. At a minimum: a list of industries or markets, sales revenue, positive annual earnings, low concentration of customers, and an orderly owner transition.
The Search Option – It is critically important to provide the owner comparisons between a search and a Private Equity (PE) buyer or a synergistic purchaser. Distinguishing yourself from PE includes longer term vs. short term perspective, a single company focus instead of a portfolio, flexible process vs. cookie-cutter approach, employee retention vs. redundancy, entrepreneurial motivation vs. profit/exit drive. Synergistic buyers may desire to move the facility , cut back operations, strip out some of the vital processes, or eventually close down the business. All of these highlight how you are “different” than these better known alternatives.
What to Expect – This is also a great opportunity to provide a prospective seller a simple outline of the search acquisition – contact, discussion, IOI Indication of Interest, on-site visit, formal LOI Letter of Intent, diligence, closing.
Developing content for brokers and intermediaries
For brokers or intermediaries, the “single” page leave-behind should present 25% about you, 50% about the industry and markets you are exploring, and 25% about your financing sources. Brokers won’t care that much about why you are different than a PE firm. Business brokers generally have their own systems for capturing information on potential buyers and will likely ignore much of the “extra” information you provide beyond what they can from your website.
Your Source of Funds – One of the most important tasks a broker or intermediary must perform is to “qualify the buyer” for the seller before signing an NDA, sending out a CIM or presenting an offer. While most don’t ask for financial statements, be prepared for that possibility. It is appropriate to say that you have investors and financial institutions who are willing to fund the acquisition, but are unable to commit until they have seen specific details on a transaction. While funded searchers can list some of their fund investors, self-funded searchers should list advisors in the process that may or may not be future investors.
Tracking how often your documents are opened
Be sure to use a “url abbreviator” like www.bitly.com, www.tinyurl.com, or www.hootswuite.com that will shorten the link to a document you have stored in the cloud as a .pdf for each type of handout. These services will provide you with graphic results of “clicks” to the links. Dropbox may be a convenient location to store the files, but you will want to see the number of times opened to gauge how much attention your documents are getting.
There is value in distilling your search information into a single page, like the “elevator pitch” that describes your purpose, targets and differentiation points. Holding this back gives you one more opportunity to dialog with the seller or broker. Broadcasting the pitch on your website removes the opportunity to develop a direct communication with a potential seller or broker.
As with all your interactions within the search process, being straight-forward, simple and to-the-point helps build trust with everyone you engage with. You want to avoid “over-exaggeration” or inaccurate phrasing which may cause someone to doubt your veracity.
Feel free to share some of your own best practices or experiences in dealing with these issues in the blog comments. I encourage comments and dialog, allowing all to learn from both my views and the views of others – a virtuous learning cycle. Jump right in!
I wish I’d had this advice three months ago while searching in Cleveland and meeting with brokers. I was often asked whether I had a “leave-behind”. I imagine not having it impacted my credibility and reduced the opportunities generated.
In addition to the personal touch, the leave-behind creates the potential to develop a future “reminder” by being left on a desk, reigniting at a later date.
Jim thanks for another helpful article.
I have a problem with the seller brochure being “40% on why you are a better alternative than either Private Equity or a “synergistic” buyer” – every search fund brochure I have seen fails miserably at doing this in my opinion/for the type of sellers I am speaking to.
I see a lot of people make tables/matrices (programmed in by years at Goldman/McKinsey/MBA) using comparisons that are frankly meaningless to the type of owners I deal with and if anything raise suspicion.
Why would you want, for instance, a table that effectively says “PE fires people we hire people” – what does that statement even mean? Let’s be frank, I wouldn’t sell my business to someone that never fired anyone because that just does not make sense. Likewise it just introduces the idea of people being fired, and you don’t want the conversation going in that direction anyway. It is all good and well to say it is important to distinguish yourself from private equity or a strategic buyer, but in 95% of cases I think they are the better alternatives for the business anyway and they will sell to them if they have the choice. It is also really hard to draw a comparison without introducing a bunch of confusing lingo.
I suggest a different ratio:
33.33% about you
33.33% about the search process
33.33% about why you want to buy their company
If as you suggest it isn’t thrown up on the internet to be downloaded then you should be able to customize that 33.33% for each specific seller or at least for each industry you are targeting with some thoughtful commentary that may build credibility rather than “low customer concentration, $1-5m sales, recurring revenue, etc.”
Adam, great observations and I can see advantages of a more even ratio. Your suggestion of having different, specifically targeted brochures makes a lot of sense. The more personalized you can get with sellers, the better. Search on!