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The Usual Suspects

April 6, 2016

By Robert Koenig

When Claude Rains declares “Round up the usual suspects” in Casablanca he really could have been talking about the average approach to lower middle market M&A. That is to say, most firms focus on roughly 100-150 likely buyers when they market a company for sale.

I built my firm, Woodbridge International, differently.

My thinking was, back in 1993, that broad-based, aggressive, multi-channel marketing was the key to finding more buyers. I knew that competition drove price. Over the years this core belief has quietly established Woodbridge International as the most unique, client-centric firm serving the lower middle market.

At the core of our beliefs, among many other things, is the fundamental agreement our team lives by: that we will never know enough about potential buyers to take a narrow approach. How is that for you?

What we're saying in fact is “we don't know”

When you break this admission down into its components, this fearless embrace of the unknown in fact gives our clients a great deal of confidence in our approach. Here is why.

  • We don't presume to know the client's industry better than they do – the client is the expert in their business, we are the expert marketers of businesses for sale
  • We don't presume to know the current acquisition strategy of every direct Strategic buyer because we believe there are thousands of potential Strategic Buyers
  • We don't presume to know Related Industry Buyers acquisition and growth strategies because we believe there are thousands of potential Related Industry Buyers
  • We don't presume to know every Private Equity Firm's or Family office's investment criteria and portfolio — we know there are billions of dollars seeking good companies and thousands of firms looking at our deals

Our team approach is built on thoroughly exploring each these possibilities with our clients, conducting exhaustive buyer research, and producing buyer target lists that are routinely 4000-6000 potential buyers.

We want more buyers because more buyers give our clients the opportunity to extract the maximum value in a sale transaction. And in the end what we've found is that 75% of the time our clients had never heard of their ultimate buyer.

That's why we don't just cover a couple of hundred ‘likely’ buyers. Our experience is that it's also absolutely critical to round up the UN-usual suspects.