John McCann sold The Bolt Supply House to Lawson Products (NASDAQ: LAWS) at the end of 2017.
McCann’s strategy involved learning from the acquirers who knocked on his door.
He invited would-be buyers into The Bolt Supply House and listened to what they had to say. He was not committed to selling, but instead wanted to know what they liked and what concerned them about his company.
One giant European conglomerate, for example, approached McCann about selling, but after a thorough evaluation, they backed out of a deal worried about McCann’s central distribution system. McCann thanked them for their time and set to work turning his distribution system into a masterpiece. Eventually, Lawson cited this as one of the many things that attracted them to The Bolt Supply House.
When it finally came time to sell, McCann commanded a premium, arguing that he had built a world-class company he knew would be a strategic gem for a lot of businesses. He ended up getting five competing offers for The Bolt Supply House and eventually sold to Lawson. When a big sophisticated acquirer approaches you about selling, the temptation is to decline a meeting if you’re not ready to sell, but hearing what they have to say can be a great way to get some superb consulting, for free. The investment bankers and corporate development executives who lead acquisitions for big acquirers are often some of the smartest, most strategic executives in your industry and—provided you don’t get sucked into a prop deal—hearing how they view your business can be an inexpensive way to improve the value of your company.