Building credibility in mergers and acquisitions

by 13 Dec 2006

Q. I’m an interim manager with specialist skills in mergers and acquisitions. I want to offer my services to companies but am unable to get my foot in the door. How can I communicate how my skills might benefit them and raise my profile within this sector and the HR industry in general?

A. There’s been much written recently about the buoyant level of mergers and acquisition activity in Australia, and much overall about the key determinant of a successful merger or acquisition: people.

Despite the public nature of the deals as they are announced, there is confidentiality during the due diligence process as the deals are developing. This makes the process of you spotting opportunities leading up to the deal difficult to identify, and takes us to the very interesting topic of navigating the ‘hidden’ opportunity market in order to access opportunities.

It is estimated that up to 45 per cent of jobs and opportunities are in this hidden job market. The hidden market includes internal job vacancies not advertised and roles that are offered privately in a network setting. Being in the industry yourself, you may have already recognised the number of opportunities that are offered to insiders. Despite the clandestine sounding nature of this market, however, it is actually a reasonably public forum – it’s tapping the network that’s the challenging part.

A couple of key points stand out in your situation that may serve to improve your chances with future opportunities.

Firstly, narrow down your field of specialist skills. On the industry side, if you have been involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions in the past, have you aligned your work to a particular sector? For example, if you’ve been involved in a few IT industry transactions, does this make you an expert in the IT area?

Similarly, have you focused your work on a particular stage or problem during a merger and acquisition? For example, was it focused on structure, change, communication, due diligence or any of the myriad other areas that could be of focus? In undertaking this exercise you should identify that to truly have specialist skills means you will be able to articulate your areas of expertise – and target opportunities in these. You shouldn’t be overly concerned about narrowing yourself excessively in this exercise either (provided you don’t overdo it): remember that your circle of influence increases with each successfully completed piece of work.

Second, with your specialist area narrowed down, determine who really calls the shots during this stage of a merger or acquisition. Is it a CEO? Is it the Board of Directors? Is it advisors to the deal (for example, an investment bank)? From your experience, you should have a strong idea of where to focus your contact efforts.

With these steps in mind you should now have a very clear value proposition to take to a select group of prospects. The third step is to work this into a visible proposition: who knows you?

From your previous work, you no doubt have a well-developed group of contacts. How long is it since you’ve been in touch with them? Who do they know to refer you to? Do they really know your newly identified value? Have you given them an elevator speech for your skills if they saw an opportunity when dealing with one of their own contacts?

Once you’ve started networking your contacts, don’t stop. What industry events do your colleagues attend? Who do they know at these events? What is the industry talk at the moment? And the list doesn’t end there. Within your area of specialisation is it possible for you to speak at an event? This will position you as ‘the’ specialist in your area of focus.

With this sort of activity, doors are bound to open. With efforts made to clarify your specialist skills, and having identified the people you should be speaking with and working your field of contacts, you will be better positioned than most in the interim market. If this is topped off with speaking engagements or any other opportunities to lift your profile, you will be well positioned when opportunities arise in this hidden area of the market.

By Tony Davison, GM, Manpower Professional.