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Small companies though faster and nimbler than larger companies and MNCs, do experience headwinds, hit a growth plateau and face uncertainties. Small companies are faster because of the founder mentality, which is a sense of mission and a passion for front line customers. They have a deep understanding of what their customers want. This is what makes them successful. However, smaller companies tend to be very dependent on a few customers. They find it difficult to sustain their effort in the long run. The owners of these companies usually depend on preferential access to clients, capital and talent to achieve initial success. Replicating this pattern in the long run is difficult. To be sustainable in the long term needs an ability to scale. At this stage, founders are faced with two options – grow and transform the company so that it can be sustainable. Or, they often think of exiting the business due to challenges in succession, lack of ability to invest etc. Even if they need to sell the business, there still is a runway to grow and transform the business for sale. Though the two options involve undergoing a transformation of sorts, the agenda and goals will be a different in each.
It is clear that companies, whether old economy or start-ups, need to work on a few areas before they sell out. All of these companies seem to be adding value somewhere which is what makes them attractive to buyers. Start ups in Israel take 4 years to sell out and on an average make 7 times their Return on Investment. In France they take 7 years to sell out and the ROI is less than 4. German companies too an average of 4 years to sell out, and their return was 2.5 times their initial investment. For most start ups, it is new technology which others think will be the next big thing. But there are lot of investors like Warren Buffet and large corporations, which make strategic investments to park their cash safely, especially given the uncertainty in the global economy. For them, old economy companies that can deliver regular dividends and has a self sustaining business will always remain attractive. Hence the question is what companies need to do to transform themselves to sell. Asian paints for example bought out the brand and entire front end sales of Ess Ess bathroom products, because of the capability Ess Ess had developed in this area. French company Lactalis acquired Tirumala Milk products for its niche products and infrastructure that it built over the years. Be it chemicals, pharma or engineering, M&A of small companies have been happening for various reasons like the people and skills possessed, functional competencies, benefits of integration to the buyer, regulatory clearances available or strong presence in the value chain.