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How Your Company Can Benefit From Cross-border M&A

Growing a company once it has reached a certain plateau of success can be challenging. Mergers and acquisitions are a powerful tool for boosting the growth of an existing company—especially cross-border M&A. As a business owner, you should consider the different ways your company can benefit from an international deal.

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Why 2021 Is A Seller’s Market

A Seller’s Market Versus a Buyer’s Market

In a seller's M&A market, excess demand for assets that are in limited supply gives sellers more power when it comes to pricing. Such demand can be generated and galvanized by circumstances that include a strong economy, lower interest rates, high cash balances, and solid earnings. Other factors that can instill confidence in buyers—leading to more bidders willing to pay a higher purchase price—include strong brand equity, significant market share, innovative technology, and streamlined distributions that are difficult to emulate or recreate from scratch.

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How Do I Get The Most Out Of My SaaS Company?

As the owner of a Software as a Service (SaaS) company, there are several strategic steps you can implement in order to drive growth and maximize the value of your business.

1. Expand Geographically

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Benchmark International's Steven Keane Named Chairman of the Year

The Benchmark International team is proud to announce that our chairman, Steven Keane, has been named International Chairman of the Year in the 2021 Global Business Awards given by Corp Today Magazine.

London-based Corp Today is a business enterprise magazine that focuses on emerging businesses and the world’s leading and fastest-growing companies, as well as their style of doing business and manner of delivering effective and collaborative solutions to strengthen market share. Their reader base consists of 138,000 C-level executives, VPs, Consultants, VCs, managers, and advisors.

The publication’s dedicated team of in-house researchers handpicked all of the 2021 winners based on merit and not popularity. Their stated goal is to recognize the best in the business.

We salute Steven for earning this prestigious recognition, as he certainly deserves it. CEO Gregory Jackson stated, “Steven’s exceptional leadership is a testament to the greatness that our company continually aspires to achieve, never settling for anything less than the very best. It’s just how we are wired at Benchmark International. Congratulations, Steven.”

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Selling Your Company? Beware Of Strangers Bearing Gifts

If you are considering selling your company, you should be aware of a certain menace that could have you in its crosshairs. There are direct buyers out there who intentionally prey on business owners, attempting to acquire a company by blindsiding its owner with big promises and, more importantly, taking advantage of their lack of guidance from a seasoned M&A professional. These buyers purposely look to avoid competition for a company because competition drives valuations higher, and they want to make an acquisition on the cheap—in addition to other shady maneuvers.

Bait & Switch
Some buyers will attempt to pull “bait & switch” tactics. To initially intrigue a seller, the buyer will present a high dollar amount. As they conduct due diligence and get the target more and more committed to the deal, they begin chipping away at the value until they reach a price and terms that are far more favorable for the buyer. This is typically an exhausting process for the seller and can lead to plenty of regret. If the deal falls apart, the seller may be reluctant to restart the process with another buyer, thinking the process will just be the same. In reality, it could have been completely different for the seller if they had a reputable M&A specialist on their side from the beginning.

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Benchmark International Facilitated the Transaction of CPR Plus, LLC to Allied 100, LLC

On April 30th, 2021, Benchmark International facilitated the sale of CPR Plus, LLC (serving the Greater St. Louis area) to Allied 100, LLC of Madison, WI.

The seller, CPR Plus, provides life-saving skills training to more than 100,000 individuals for close to 30 years in the St. Louis area. Their comprehensive and convenient CPR training courses are accredited by the American Heart Association and administered by friendly instructors with extensive experience.

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Top Questions Buyers Should Ask during Management Meetings When Acquiring a Company

As anyone who has ever done it before will tell you, buying a company is a process. It can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to complete. To reduce uncertainties and understand the business as much as possible, buyers must conduct thorough due diligence and ask the right questions. Finances, potential synergy, liabilities, customer relationships, and key employees are just a few areas that the buyer should consider.

Here are five essential questions buyers should ask during management meetings when acquiring a company.

1. Why is now the best time for you to sell your business?

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Benchmark International's Gregory Jackson Named CEO Of The Year

In the GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) 2021 GLOBAL AWARDS, Gregory P. Jackson, CEO of Benchmark International, has been named CEO of The Year in the area of Corporate Finance.

The ACQ is a leading corporate news publication serving the sector since 2003, with a global audience of more than 261,000 subscribers. The GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) GLOBAL AWARDS celebrate achievement, innovation, and brilliance, recognizing the world's most outstanding organizations and professionals.

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Benchmark International Named International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory Of The Year

In the GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) 2021 GLOBAL AWARDS, Benchmark International has been named the International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory of The Year.

The ACQ is a leading corporate news publication serving the sector since 2003, with a global audience of more than 261,000 subscribers. The GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) GLOBAL AWARDS celebrate achievement, innovation and brilliance, recognizing the most outstanding organizations and professionals in the world. 

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Tips for Making Sellers Comfortable with You as a Potential Buyer

The acquisition process can understandably be a very daunting task for sellers, let alone an uncomfortable experience that pulls back the curtains on their business and its most intimate information. Many sellers realize this is not their area of expertise and will make the informed decision to contract with a sell-side M&A advisory firm before officially entering the marketplace. The M&A advisory represents the seller, but can function as your ally as a buyer if you let them because they have incentive to get a deal done. Although M&A advisors can guide a seller through the sales process and educate them on market norms, they’re not capable of self-fabricating the comfort level between buyer and seller. Over time, a seller’s relationship with a potential buyer will prove to be most advantageous in getting to the finish line of a transaction, as there will be numerous items both sides will have to work through together. Unfortunately, agreements can fall apart due to a lack of mutual comfort between the buyer and seller, and this is typically a result of a combination of multiple factors set in motion long before official due diligence even began. The following are steps you should consider when working side by side with a seller during the transaction life cycle.

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M&A Expectations After The Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed M&A deal activity overall in 2020. According to data from PitchBook, more than 2,000 transactions closed for a value of $336.8 billion in Q2 of last year. That represents a 41 percent decline in the number of deals from Q1. Yet, deals did pick up in the second half of the year, which is likely to continue, as businesses are poised for improved economic conditions that leave COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.

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Benchmark International Successfully Facilitated The Acquisition Of ASAP Group By Terratest Group

Benchmark International is pleased to announce the transaction between ASAP Group (“ASAP”) and Terratest Group (“Terratest”).

Founded in 2006, ASAP is a leading foundation company specializing in a broad variety of shoring and foundation support methods, with a unique patented Sheetpiler™ technology that makes ASAP one of the premier shoring companies in Florida.

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The Importance Of Being “Sale Ready”

As a business owner, maybe you haven’t given much thought to selling your company. Or maybe you’ve bounced the idea around but not too seriously. It’s pretty common for business owners to think, “I have years before I plan on selling my business. Why would I worry about that now?” Well, here’s the thing. Life is unpredictable. Just look at how prepared the world was for the COVID-19 pandemic. We think it’s safe to say that no business owner was prepared for that.

But being prepared for the unexpected isn’t the only reason that it is important to have your business in “sale ready” shape at all times, even if you’re not ready to sell. If the company is not in ready condition, it could cost you financially. And it goes beyond that. Always operating your company as if you are ready to sell accomplishes several very beneficial objectives. It ensures that you are operating at peak performance with a focus on profitability at all times, and it helps you avoid being too late to the game to make the necessary changes to be ready to sell. A person’s priorities in life can change quickly or even gradually over a span of years, and you might not have the time to correct any issues that would impact the valuation of your company and, ultimately, its sale price. It’s important to remember that properly preparing a company to go to market can take years. When push comes to shove, if you end up in a situation where you need to sell, not being ready can be a costly mistake.   

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Benchmark International Facilitated The Transaction Of Nova Engineering And A High Net Worth Individual

NOVA Engineering, Inc. is a State of California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE), a State of California Small Business Enterprise (SBE), a City of San Diego Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE), and a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). NOVA Engineering offers the experience of a unique team that brings the enthusiasm and energy of a seasoned firm, tempered by the high level of skill and professional relationships that can only be built through long-term experience. NOVA Engineering provides professional consulting services, including planning, civil engineering, surveying, and stormwater services for San Diego County in California.

NOVA’s team brings extensive experience in providing property, construction, and topographic engineering and surveying services to the San Diego market. They provide responsive, professional service, which has earned them the privilege of working with many clients time and time again.

The high net worth individual that acquired the firm is the principal engineer of two Southern California based consulting firms offering civil engineering, surveying, and planning services. The acquisition of NOVA Engineering allows the acquirer to consolidate the practices to offer a more comprehensive suite of services to the greater San Diego Metropolitan Area.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

In reference to the transaction, Danny Barnett, President of NOVA Engineering, explained his experience with Benchmark International, “Benchmark International was a huge help in brokering the sale of our company. From the front end marketing to the back end deal closing, the deal team was constantly in communication about new buyer interest and providing suggestions based on their breadth of deal experience. Most importantly, they were reachable. Every phone call and email we sent was always answered in the same day.”

Sam Stallings, Associate at Benchmark International, stated, “Our client continued to stress the importance of the acquirer’s cultural fit with NOVA Engineering as it was a top priority for our client to be confident that the firm would be left in good hands. Like many business owners within the lower-middle market, NOVA Engineering wanted to ensure that the clients, company, and employees would continue to work with a firm that shares the same vision and values as NOVA Engineering. Our talented deal team quickly sought out a buyer motivated by the client’s footprint and reputation in Southern California. The team’s achievement in identifying a strong cultural fit and seeking an above average multiple for our client is the culmination of tireless teamwork and relentless pursuit of preeminence in the marketplace. We are excited for both parties and wish them the best of luck with their future endeavors.”

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10 Factors That Drive Business Value Beyond Revenue

The value of a company extends beyond the amount of revenue it generates. As a business owner, you should be monitoring the value of your company at all times, but it is especially important if you are considering exiting or retiring within the next several years, or even up to a decade from now.

Company valuations are based on far more factors than just financial statements and multiples. The process involves the forecasting of the future of the business based on several key value drivers. Sometimes these can be sector-specific, but there are many core drivers that apply to any type of business, as outlined below.

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Understanding Working Capital

Working capital, also referred to as net working capital, is the measure of a company's liquidity, operational efficiency, and short-term financial status. It is the difference between a business’s current assets, its inventory of materials and goods, and its existing liabilities. Net operating working capital is the difference between current assets and non-interest-bearing current liabilities. Typically, they are both calculated similarly, by deducting current liabilities from the current assets. So, essentially, if a business’s current assets total $500,000 and its current liabilities are $100,000, then its working capital is $400,000. But there are a few variations on the calculation formula based on what a financial analyst wants to include or exclude:

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Can I Put My Business On The Market Even Though I'm Not Actively Looking To Sell?

Maybe you’re not sure if you are ready to sell your business, but you’re curious about what you could learn if you put it on the market. You can always put your company on the market at any time, but you should understand the right way to do it, and everything that you need to consider.

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Benchmark International Completes 52 Transactions in 52 Weeks for US Offices

What Does It Take to Complete 52 Transactions in 52 Weeks?
2020 brought us all a huge amount of uncertainty. From an unexpected global pandemic to an election year, business owners tooling with the idea of a transaction were skeptical of success and market interest. With immense challenges presenting themselves, Benchmark International US offices took the year by the horns and hit another record year of completed transactions.

Following their 2019 accomplishment of 40 successful deals, Benchmark International’s US  transaction teams saw the opportunity to take it one step further, completing 52 domestic deals. This is a 33% growth rate in the midst of one of the most trying economic environments to date.

The question here is: What does it take to complete an average of one deal per week, every week, in the midst of a global pandemic?

Keep the Consistency

The five US transaction teams showed consistency when working with our clients, no matter the deal size or time on market. Being industry agnostic allowed Benchmark International to bring a wide range of companies to market in 2020; from quick deals to major transactions, the team displayed prodigious work ethic to find the perfect fit for their clients.

COVID-19 tested global corporate environments, but Benchmark International adapted to the temporary work from home changes with ease. Distractions while working from home could have easily altered the company's success, but with virtual communication and determination to find the best for our clients, the team proved resilient. Benchmark International’s 2019 modernization of its tech systems, from top to bottom, paid off handsomely.  A new CRM, the move to cloud-based storage, and widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams for inter-office communications all occurred in the first months of 2020, just in time to a two-month work from home period, a minor annoyance as opposed to a hinderance.

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Show Resilience

Both buyers and sellers saw a shift in focus when COVID-19 hit challenging the way M&A firms traditionally go about business. It took tedious due diligence amongst the five transaction teams to ensure the value of the companies represented was preserved.

2020 financial concerns are guaranteed to be on business owners' minds when moving into conversations regarding a full/partial sale in 2021. There is not yet a "market standard" on COVID-19 "add backs." However, owing to the breadth of its transaction experience both domestically and globally over the last year, Benchmark International is helping to shape that emerging standard, pushing for fairness to sellers wherever possible and reminding buyers that their true interest lies in determining how the business will perform under normal circumstances..

Stick True to the Foundation of Benchmark International

Benchmark International was formed on the ideology that every business is a family business. The dedication demonstrated by everyone at the firm (from analysts to directors to executive leadership) is what stands this team apart from their competitors. Sticking to the robust business model originally set forth by the founders, Benchmark International was ready and able to handle challenges that were unrecognizable prior to the year 2020.

As Benchmark International continues to set records statewide, the notable accomplishments extend beyond that; for SIX years in a row, the company as a whole completed 100+ transactions per year. This shows that geographical location, although important, doesn't outweigh work ethic, consistency, and resilience amongst a team like Benchmark International.

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Accelerating SaaS Growth With A Strategic Partner

Strategic partnerships can be game-changers for SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. Sales revenue is clearly of vital importance, but it takes more than just those numbers to make things happen on a larger scale. Relationships are the bedrock of business. If you are looking to drive growth, a strategic partnership can be a very powerful tool to help your company increase its audience, build upon the brand, and tap into new markets. All of this, in turn, can prop up your sales team and boost your overall growth.

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Five Signs You May Need a CEO to Run Your Company

While many founders tend to be their own CEOs, sometimes you do need a little help. If you hire too soon, you waste valuable resources, but if you hire too late, you could be missing vital opportunities to grow. Choosing when to hire a CEO is a tough decision, so if you notice any of the following signs, now may be the right time to hire a small business CEO.

1. Need for More Expertise: As a business owner or founder, you started the business and transitioned it from the planning stage to successful operations. Completing this feat does not always mean that you have strong business expertise. Many times, it means that you have strong experience exclusively in your particular offering. Hiring a CEO with business experience can help your company develop new ideas, execute decisions, and formulate new strategies that will work to drive your bottom line. In some instances, people outside the company will view your business more professionally when a CEO with a background in the industry takes the reigns.

2. Not Your Passion: Even if you possess the ability to run your company, that may not be where your passions lie. If you want to focus on areas of the company, such as client relationships or product development, it may be time for you to hire a CEO. They can handle the business aspects such as operations, marketing, or production, and you can keep your focus on the interests that you enjoy and where you benefit the most for your business.


3. Clarity of Vision: If you observe that your employees seem unclear about the company's operations and goals, it is possible that they would benefit significantly from fresh leadership. A new CEO will serve as the leader for your company, make known company-wide goals, and implement your visions as the owner. This will give your company a united voice through a seasoned executive who has the experience to retain and attract a management team that will contribute to your path of long-term success. Also, a founders’ loyalty to original employees can limit potential. A CEO will evaluate performance and make tough personnel decisions for you that will drive growth.

 

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4. Stagnation: Say you want to expand your business but find that you have to focus too heavily on keeping the company up and running. When there isn't enough time for innovation, this can lead to inactivity and cause your company to stagnate, creating severe problems down the road. A small business CEO allows you to count on them to map out growth strategies and coordinate the vital action needed to help your business scale.

5. Overwhelm: Maybe you start to notice that you get things done, but you are overworking your people. Founders and CEOs are certainly not strangers to hard work. Your dedication to your craft and commitment to the growth of the company are second to none. However, when the same person performs these roles, that person can quickly become overwhelmed and, as a result, pass unnecessary pressure onto the employees. If you realize that you are relying too heavily on your team members to help keep your head above water, it may be an excellent time to hire a CEO. It's important to keep in mind that there is only so much cleaning up after others your team will be willing to do. Low employee morale can sink a company's productivity and lead to long-term problems.


Once you have decided that you are ready to find a CEO, many organizations specialize in locating and screening the perfect candidate for you. For help in your recruitment process, consider hiring an executive search firm, networking with your professional connections, creating a CEO search committee, and making sure to plan ahead. Applicant Tracking Systems such as Greenhouse, JazzHR, Breezy HR, or Google Hire can help your recruitment process. Finally, be sure to have all of the essential materials on hand to onboard your CEO candidate. Think about including your story, your primary values, and your mission to ensure vision alignment.

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Why You Should Consider Private Equity

How Private Equity Works

Private equity firms raise financing from institutions and individuals and then invest those funds into the buying and selling of businesses. Once a pre-specified amount is raised, the fund closes to new investors and is liquidated. All of the fund’s businesses are sold within a set timeframe that is typically less than ten years. The more successfully a PE firm’s funds perform, the better its ability to raise money in the future.

PE firms do accept some limitations on their use of investments under fund management contracts, such as the size of any single business investment. Once the money has been committed, investors have nearly zero control over its management, unlike a public company’s board of directors. 

The leaders of the companies within a private equity portfolio are not members of the PE firm’s management. Private equity firms control its portfolio companies through representation on the boards of those companies. It is common for a PE firm to ask the CEO and other business leaders in their portfolios to invest personally. This offers a way to ensure their level of commitment and motivation. In return, the operating managers can get significant rewards that are linked to profits when the company is sold.

With large buyouts, PE funds usually charge investors a fee of around 1.5 to 2 percent of assets under management, plus 20 percent of all profits (subject to achieving a minimum rate of return). Fund mostly profit through capital gains on the sale of portfolio companies.

How Private Equity Improves Value

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Gamestop, Robinhood, And Drama On Wall Street

The free online trading app known as Robinhood has proclaimed to be “on a mission to democratize finance for all.” It was intended to open up the Wall Street stock market to the average American for investment “on their own terms,” with more easily digestible financial information readily available to novice investors. The app was designed to “let the people trade” and make the financial system more accessible for everyone, until things took quite a turn, all due to a fledgling brick and mortar video game retailer known as GameStop.

The amateur traders using Robinhood became pitted against the hedge fund honchos when they started buying up options and shares of GameStop (GME), enlarging those bets and also making large trades of other stocks, such as AMC Entertainment, Tootsie Roll, and BlackBerry.

How It All Happened

Professional hedge fund investors had been short selling shares of GameStop, essentially borrowing shares of stock to sell, and then buying them back later so they can return them. This lets them profit if the stock price drops (betting that the company will fail). If the stock does not continue to fall, investors are forced to cover their position or buy more stock to minimize their losses.

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The Importance of a Handshake - 12 Reasons Why Face to Face Interactions Will Never Go Away

Hearing the phrase "the new normal" has become our new normal. During COVID, we have all had to adjust to new situations. We are not standing in big crowds watching a parade go by in our community, and we are not crammed together in a convention center listening to a recap of the past quarter’s economic trends. In some places, we cannot sit too close to one another at a local restaurant and watch our favorite sports teams. Even with all these changes, there is one thing that will rebound: face to face meetings.

When I was cutting my teeth in life insurance years ago, we were trained on the importance of non-verbal forms of communication. Before 2020, we've had many forms of digital communication. Now it seems like we have endless options, but a short well-planned meeting can save an incredible amount of time. Fancy tech isn't the end-all-be-all. Just because somebody is using the latest tech, it doesn’t mean it’s better tech.

Here are 12 reasons why I believe face to face meetings are still essential:

  1. I can’t read non-verbal communications through my email and video calls I only see part of the picture. Non-verbal communication is endlessly more important than the words that are spoken. 7% of a conversation is actual words. 38% is inflection. 55% are facial expressions. These cannot be replicated remotely. This cannot be emphasized enough, so it is my number one entry on this list.

  2. Face to face meetings leave a lot more room for improvisation. Conversations tend to flow more naturally, lead in many directions, and lead to new opportunities.

  3. Engaging with people is just easier. We have time before and after for chit chat. While this might not seem important, how it relates to building human capital should be recognized. We never know what small items can lead to a spark igniting an excellent working relationship. It can be something as simple as taking a wrong turn, then one of the attendees tells you that they did the same thing their first time in the office. The two of you shake hands, introduce yourselves, and now you've started building a connection that can lead to opportunities in the future.

  4. “Sorry everyone. Larry can’t make the meeting today. His internet is down. Can we reschedule for later today or sometime next week?”. Now, here is a historical proverb to bring interest to this article:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost

For want of a shoe the horse was lost

For want of a horse the rider was lost

For want of a message the battle was lost

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Will that meeting get rescheduled? Will somebody else have to back out next time? By not having the meeting at the original time, we have opened the door for more potential problems to arise. All we have is now. We can't predict the future, and having to reschedule meetings at the last moment can lead to frustration and ultimately tank a deal.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

  1. Maybe this one is just me, but I often feel that video calls can feel a bit foggy. Face to face meetings are crystal clear. Key points are clear and more easily understood.

  2. Meeting in person allows someone to go further than just a meeting. After a video conference, what happens? You turn off your computer, and everyone goes back to whatever it is they were doing. If you are the person traveling somewhere, what is likely to happen? Assuming that you are staying the night, more likely than not, someone you were meeting with will take you out and show you around town. Building human capital is what makes an organization's culture. Without these interactions, you have people in various offices doing their own things. When they can meet, interact, and get to know each other, things work out better.

  3. In my experience, agreeing on an offer is much easier if the buyer and seller meet in person. If the two parties have never met, people tend to get more animated in their responses if things don't go the way they'd like. But when the two groups have met, I see a much different reaction. Parties are less likely to get upset and more likely to listen to each other. Instead of blowing up and walking away from a deal, they take the time to remain calm and discuss items in a more relaxed manner. They've started building a bond. They aren't just trying to get better terms from Really Big Company Inc.; they're speaking with Larry. "Larry is someone that I went to dinner with, and everyone joined from the office and had a great time. I'm going to get on the phone with Larry and see if we can hash this out and find a middle ground." From a broker's perspective, it’s a night and day difference seeing groups that have met in person vs. those that have not.

  4. A bunch of people in a room and a clean whiteboard can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs and ideas. Ask Mark Zuckerberg.

  5. In-person meetings show mutual acknowledgment, respect, and action. 93% of people found negotiating with people of different languages and cultures easier. 82% believe negotiating important contracts in person is easier. Overall, 95% of people still say face to face meetings are essential. Also, this one shockingly doesn't have a generation gap.

  6. Millennials prefer face to face meetings in higher percentages than Gen X.

  7. Eventbrite ran a study and found that millennials are fueling the experience economy. This means instead of having materialistic items, people age 18-34 (who make up the largest percentage of the US population and the workforce) prefer going to things. Whether that's a vacation, concert, sporting event, younger people like doing things in person instead of remotely. Now, how does that transfer into the workplace? 80% of millennials prefer face to face communication with colleagues instead of 78% of Gen Xers. With this backlog of people choosing to be in person, the future looks bright for sitting across the table and speaking with folks.

  8. “Now, what about cost? I’m saving a fortune by not paying for my people to travel. Even if my people prefer in-person, the dollars don’t justify their preference.” To quote ESPN's Lee Corso: "Not so fast." Regarding ROI:
  • Companies gain $12.50 for every US dollar spent on business travel
  • 40% of prospects converted to new customers through face to face meeting
  • 28% of current business that would be lost without face to face meetings
  • 17% profit an average company would lose if it eliminated all business travel
Even in terms of a P&L, it makes sense to travel. Underscored by the sheer number of cities worldwide that have made their identity around business travel and convention destinations. The impact this has on the economy and job creation can never be fully explored. While it certainly isn’t an individual business’ prerogative to spend their hard-earned dollars on company meals, it’s still a sound fiscal path.

After reading this, think back to some of your interactions. Could they be better suited for in-person? Gut feeling aside, the data backs the decision to continue face to face meetings. Both for sales, prospecting, company culture, and maintaining client relationships all seem to justify this idea, and this is something that we don't feel will go away in the future despite the tumultuous year we've just experienced. 

Sources:

Inc.com

Business.com

Great Business Schools

Eventbrite

Medium

Washington Post

Entrepreneur

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2021 Is Here. Why You Should Sell Now

As a business owner considering the sale of your company, you may be asking yourself, “When is the right time to sell?” The answer is simple. The time is now.

The global recovery is underway, and 2021 has given us several reasons to be highly optimistic, and these reasons are why you should take action.

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Small Business Grants That Are Available to Help Your Business Grow

Small business grants can provide the cash that you need without you paying it back as they do not require repayment of any kind. There are several government agencies, nonprofits, and private businesses or corporations that provide essentially free money in the form of grants to small business owners. The key is to find grants that you qualify for as there are grants available for all varieties of small and online business owners: veterans, disabled Americans, minorities, women, and other under-represented groups. Here’s a list of grants for business owners interested in small business grant opportunities.

The StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award: The StreetShares Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to inspire, educate, and support the military entrepreneurial community. This award is designed to boost small business owners who innovate and create a social impact in the changing marketplace. The applicant must be a veteran, reserve, or transitioning active duty member of any of the United States Armed Forces, a spouse of a military member, or the child or immediate family member of a Military Member who died on active duty. The first-place award is $15,000, the second-place award is $6,000, and the third-place award is $4,000. Visit www.streetsharesfoundation.org to learn more.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a grant program by FedEx to award U.S. based small businesses with grants to help them grow and scale their business. The contest entry period typically takes place early in the year. The competition awards $250,000 to 12 small businesses, including a $50,000 grant and $7,500 in FedEx print and business services to its grand prize winner. Visit www.fedex.com to learn more.

The Girlboss Foundation Grant: Since 2014, the Girlboss Foundation has given away over $130,000 worth of grants to women entrepreneurs making innovative moves in the industries of fashion, design, music, and the arts. Each grant winner receives $15,000 in project funding, plus features on Girlboss.com, their newsletter, and social media platforms. Applicants are judged on innovation and creativity, business planning and acumen, along with a demonstration of financial need. Visit www.girlboss.com to learn more.

National Association for the Self-Employed: One of the ways that the NASE gives back to the community is through NASE Growth Grants. Since 2006, the NASE has awarded nearly $1,000,000 to members just like you. A new winner is chosen each month to be awarded up to a $4,000 grant to support the growth of their business. The grant can be used for a variety of business needs, including marketing, advertising, and hiring employees. Visit www.nase.org to learn more.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Grants.gov: Managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Grants.gov is an E-Government initiative operating under the governance of the Office of Management and Budget. The Grants.gov system houses information on over $1,000 grant programs and vets grant applications for federal grant-making agencies. To apply, you must obtain a DUNS number for your business (a unique nine-digit identification number), create an account at Grants.gov, and register to do business with the U.S. government through its System Award Management website. Visit Grants.gov to learn more.

Save Small Business: The Save Small Business Fund is a way for larger businesses and philanthropies to help the small business community suffering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded by corporate and philanthropic partners, the Save Small Business Fund is a collective effort to provide $5,000 grants to as many small employers as they can. Eligible businesses must employ between three and twenty people, be located in an economically vulnerable community, and have been harmed financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit www.savesmallbusiness.com to learn more.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program: Facebook is offering $100Million in cash grants and ad credits. To be eligible to apply, your business must have between two and fifty employees, have been in business for over a year, have experienced challenges from COVID-19, and be in or near a location where Facebook operates. Visit www.facebook.com to learn more.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s Business Consortium Fund: The NMSDC provides a grant program known as the Business Consortium Fund, which is intended to support certified minority-owned businesses. Minority business owners must own and control 51% of the business. Minority business owners include entrepreneurs who are African-American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, or Asian-Indian American. Visit www.nmsdc.org to learn more.

There are countless grants available, and this list only represents a few. The challenge is finding the right one for you. Once you have identified a grant that you are eligible for, the next step is to accurately complete the application process according to the guidelines given. If you qualify, you could gain access to funding without the obligation of repayment and potentially grow your business without the burden of debt.

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Leading Positive Change After an Acquisition

Though every business will go through changes as it evolves, being acquired by a business is perhaps the one that can be the most stressful for its employees. There can be much uncertainty for a company that is acquired. If not handled properly, the buyer can lose some of their people (along with their customer relationships, institutional knowledge, etc.) that made the company successful. Managing the change positively during this tumultuous time can reduce a mass exodus after a sale is completed.

Key employees may be worried about whether their jobs will be intact after an acquisition. Perhaps they feel their role won't be needed, or the buyer will want to use their people to perform their functions. At the same time, the buyer may be worried that these key employees will leave. Leaders and other influencers within organizations set the tone for a company's culture, innovation, and strategic initiatives. Losing them reduces the value of the company they are acquiring.

One key to reducing uncertainty for the acquired company’s employees is first to create readiness for change. People will resist change unless they are ready for it. On the other hand, when they are open to change, employees are more likely to accept everything that comes with it. These employees will be an essential part of the transitional period after the acquisition. Getting their buy-in will pave the way for creating a stronger company in the future.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

In their book Developing Management Skills, Whetten and Cameron suggest four ways to create readiness when leading positive change:

Benchmark best practice and compare current performance to the highest performance

Within the context of an acquisition, it's possible (likely even) that each of the involved organizations can perform certain functions better than the other. This may be one of the catalysts behind the acquisition. In that respect, synergies can be experienced when buyers and sellers learn each other’s best practices and implement improvements. Improvements can mean doing things better, faster and/or cheaper.

Institute symbolic events to signal the positive change

Symbolism can have a significant impact. The authors indicate that to be "successful in leading positive change, you must signal the end of the old way of doing things and the beginning of a new way of doing things." This can be accomplished in a variety of ways and can be elaborate or more reserved.

Create a new language that illustrates the positive change

Changing the way people talk about the change that is occurring is vital. If negativity abounds, positivity must replace that language. Taking the time to reframe things with a positive outlook can impact how employees view change.

Overcome resistance

People are typically against change because of the unknown. Finding common ground and having people participate in the change helps. Converting resistors is especially important because they have a way of influencing the rest of the team. Proactively identify the employees most likely to undermine the change and help them get on board first. They will, in turn, help persuade other employees.

Helping people understand the importance/urgency of the change that is happening through the acquisition will increase the likelihood they will stay and help ensure a smoother transition of ownership. The key is conveying that the company's employees are an essential part of the company's success going forward and preparing them for the change they will experience.

 Benchmark International Buyer Profiles

Want to be the first to know when new opportunities come to market that fit your acquisition criteria? Create a buyer profile today. While you're there, be sure to check out all the resources we've created specifically for buyers, including opportunities, on-demand webinars, buyer events, and our latest edition of The Mark magazine.

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2021 M&A Outlook

The Beginning of the End

The turbulent year of 2020 is finally in our rearview mirror. While so many lives have been lost and everyday life is still far from normal, effective vaccines for COVID-19 are being distributed, offering hope for a near-term end to the disruption we’ve endured for the past year.

Markets have begun to respond with optimism for the highly anticipated return to normal, but we’re not at the finish line quite yet. Mass distribution of the vaccine will take time, and people and businesses are still suffering as the virus is spreading at record-high levels and restrictions are being reinforced. This means that, yes, our world remains suspended in a state of uncertainty, but we have good reason to believe that the global economy will continue to recover, and mergers and acquisitions will lead the recovery. Research indicates that 53 percent of US executives plan to increase M&A investment in 2021. Some sectors have fared rather well during the pandemic. But how well—and how quickly—the overall economy recovers will depend on factors such as virus containment, fiscal and monetary policy, and inflation.

Virus containment remains the main priority for economic recovery to succeed. However, there are other possible risks to market performance. A lack of adequate policy support could occur due to concerns about mounting government debt. The technology conflict between the US and China is likely to continue even under a more traditional Biden administration, and the impacts are expected to take years to manifest. The decisions made by the two countries will affect regional economies and the businesses that operate within them. Other geopolitical factors could also shift investor attention away from recovery, but they are considered rather unlikely at this time.

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Why Choose An M&A Firm Over An Industry Expert?

Many business owners believe that enlisting an expert in their industry is the right way to go when selling their companies. But if you want to rake in the most value for your business, there’s a better way.

There is no question that mergers and acquisitions are complicated and subject to constantly changing market conditions and industry trends. An industry expert might know plenty about a particular industry, but they are not experts on selling and buying businesses. A mergers and acquisitions firm is.

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M&A As A Strategic Opportunity For Business Owners

It is not uncommon for a company acquisition to be viewed as a simple transaction that means transferring the business from one owner to another. But rather than just allowing the business to simply carry on as is under new leadership, a merger or acquisition should be viewed as a solid strategy to boost the company’s overall health, productivity, and bottom line. While M&A transactions can serve as great solutions for exit strategies, they can be so much more than that. M&A should be regarded as a powerful tactical opportunity.

Often times, M&A deals are considered to be a way to get out and cash out with instant gratification. But what else might be possible when a deal is carefully crafted to deliver sustainable returns and support a powerful legacy for the business in the long-term? M&A done right can translate into great success for a company and, ultimately, its leadership.

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2020 M&A In The Global Sports World

In early 2020, there was plenty of optimism for investment opportunities and growth in the sports sector prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has since caused disruption in nearly every sector around the world. Financial uncertainty has been a large factor in addition to issues surrounding player contracts and broadcasting rights. Mergers and acquisitions activity in the global sports world has experienced a downward trend but there is hope on the horizon.

Italian Football

Amidst COVID-19 delays, Italian football (calico) has had its share of off-the-field matters this year. In August, the Italian club A.S. Roma announced the completion of a takeover by Texas-based Friedkin Group: an 86.6% stake in for €591 million, a large decrease from the previously agreed upon figure of €750 million prior to the pandemic. This lower price demonstrates how lost matches, sponsorship, and broadcasting income all impact the valuation of sports clubs. In light of these decreasing valuations, PE firms could be motivated to seek out bargain M&A and financing opportunities.

Italy’s Serie A has also embraced private investment. In September, its 20 clubs agreed to create its own media company financed partially by PE funds in order to better organize the sale and promotion of the league's TV rights. The move is designed to improve governance and increase revenue, especially abroad.

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Post-COVID Due Diligence

No one knows for sure how much longer the COVID-19 pandemic will be affecting our lives and our businesses. But we do know that mergers and acquisitions are still happening, deal activity will pick up, and the way we approach due diligence in a post-COVID world has the power to make major differences when it comes to selling a company. While there are new obstacles to consider, there are also significant opportunities to identify and create value, and help companies outperform the market.

Real-time Data

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Benchmark International is Pleased to Announce Our Attendance at the ACG New York Annual Technology M&A Conference

Benchmark International is pleased to announce our attendance at the ACG New York Annual Technology M&A Conference on December 16, 2020.

The conference is devoted to deal making in the middle-market technology sector.

Key elements include:

  • Multi billions in dry powder represented
  • Attendees include premier technology investors and intermediaries
  • 100+ senior capital providers and technology sector insiders
  • Private one-on-one meetings scheduled with top decision makers
  • Speakers include high profile founders that have sold to Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google

Link to Conference Registration: https://www.acg.org/nyc/events/acg-ny-annual-technology-ma-conference 

ACG New York Annual Technology M&A Conference 

Key topics include the latest trends and investment opportunities:

  • Identifying how Private Equity using technology for competitive advantage and to enhance portfolio company value
  • Finding tech innovations and ideas that will boom beyond CV-19
  • Naming where are Capital Providers are placing their technology sub sector bet

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Grow Your Business Through A Strategic Alliance Or Strategic Partnership

Mergers and acquisitions are proven highly effective strategies for business owners that want to create growth, diversify, save a struggling business, or craft an exit strategy for their retirement. But maybe you are seeking a less-permanent measure to boost your bottom line. By forming a strategic alliance or a strategic partnership with another business, you can create significant growth and cost savings for both companies. 

Strategic Alliances
Your business can gain a series of advantages through a legal strategic alliance agreement. An alliance can improve operations, pool resources, share core competencies, change the competitive landscape, create economies of scale, and offer a lower cost way to enter new sectors. There are three main types of strategic alliances:
  • Joint Venture: When two or more parent companies form an entity together with a business objective, sharing in the risks and returns, and retaining their individual legal statuses. It can be an equal joint venture, in which both parent companies own an equal portion of the entity, or it can be a majority-owned venture, in which one partner owns a larger percentage of the company. A joint venture can help to save money, combine expertise, or enter new markets. It is not a partnership, consortium, or merger. 
  • Equity Alliance: When one company purchases a specific percentage of equity in another company. 
  • Non-Equity Alliance: When two companies enter into a contractual relationship, which allocates resources, capabilities, assets, or other means to one another.
 
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Benchmark International is Pleased to Announce Our Attendance at Kayo's Healthcare Investment Forum

Benchmark International is pleased to announce our attendance at Kayo’s Healthcare Investment Forum on December 2, 2020.

The conference will explore why private equity finance has become such an attractive option for healthcare companies, with a focus on healthcare service, practice management, and healthcare tech.

Attendees include:

  • C-Suite executives at public and private healthcare service and healthcare technology companies
  • Venture capital, private equity, healthcare and private equity industry advisors, and lenders

Link to Forum Registration: https://kayoconferenceseries.com/summits/ 
Link to Agenda: https://kayoconferenceseries.com/healthcare/healthcare-investment-summit-agenda/ 

Kayo’s Healthcare Investment Forum

The conference will cover new technologies, new entrants, a shift to outpatient and home-based services, and the move towards value-based care continue to create new financial pressures for healthcare organizations. As healthcare leaders reimagine their services and transform operations, private equity is stepping up to help.

Kayo believes women should have a community that supports, elevates, and champions them. That’s why they create industry events where professional women can connect with leaders, advance themselves, and champion other women. They want women to know they’re stronger when they Trailblaze Together.

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Printing & Packaging M&A In 2020

In the printing and packaging sectors, M&A activity has slowed since August of 2019 with around 14 percent fewer deals closing. Deal activity was strong at the beginning of 2020, and then the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill in the spring, with activity starting to return to normal in late summer. In fact, there were 16 transactions in August, which happens to be the same number as August of 2019.

The pandemic has made it more challenging to complete deals because of social distancing and how it impacts personal relationships, but buyers have not lost their strategic focus. The packaging side of the business has shown a heightened level of interest in labels, corrugated cartons, and folding cartons. Private equity and large corporate investors remain in the game. There is increased interest in flexible packaging, but the number of these transactions has been limited by the availability of target businesses in this segment.

 

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2020 Automotive M&A Update

During the first half of 2020, M&A activity in the automotive industry was down from previous years due to uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, with cross-border deals becoming more complex. However, the pandemic also resulted in new opportunities for consolidation within the industry.

There were $11.9 billion in M&A deals, which represented a 54.8% decrease in value compared to the first half of 2019. Most investments were in the pursuit of CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electrified) technologies. This type of tech is predicted to drive M&A through the end of 2020. Dealmakers are expected to concentrate on securing supply chains and increasing resiliency rather than expanding globally.

Global Deal Activity

The majority of deal value in volume in the first half of 2020 took place in Asia and Oceania, followed by North America. The largest automotive transaction in the first half of the year was valued at $2.9 billion, with Traton SE, a vehicle-manufacturing subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, acquiring Navistar International Corporation. Volkswagen Group China continued to strengthen its electrification strategy by making two acquisitions valued at more than $1 billion each: Gotion High-tech Co. and JAC Volkswagen Automotive Company.

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When Is The Right Time To Retire?

The right time to retire is going to be different for everyone based on individual circumstances and goals. While finances are obviously a major factor in the decision, being emotionally and mentally ready is equally important. Here are some points you should consider if you are thinking about embarking on retirement.

Financial Stability
Retirement hinges upon having the appropriate income to support a comfortable lifestyle in the future. This entails having an accurate and realistic picture of what your expenses will be and how much you will need in order to cover them, including income from your savings, pensions, social security, 401ks, IRAs, and any other assets. The earlier you plan to retire, the more significant your nest egg will need to be. Waiting a few years can help you build up more financial security through tax-advantage investment accounts. So if you love what you do, a later retirement means that you can continue doing it while you shore up your savings for the future. A common algorithm for retirement planning is to have savings that are 25 times the amount of your annual expenses.

No Debt
When heading into retirement, it is advised that you make sure you do not have outstanding debt in the form of high-interest credit cards and outstanding loans aside from a mortgage or car financing, which can be taken into account for your needed expenses. By eliminating debt, your retirement income can be used for current expenses instead of past expenses and offer you added peace of mind.

The Economy
While there is no way to be sure what the future holds, if there are signs of an economic downturn, you may want to hold off on the retirement plans for a bit. This will give the markets time to recover, which will help you recoup your invested assets and retire with a better bottom line.

 

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M&A Outlook Under Biden Election Win

Now that Biden was named the President-elect, what does this mean for mergers and acquisitions under a Biden administration? The good news is that mergers and acquisitions activity is expected to increase regardless of the election results. Many experts predict that M&A activity will return to pre-pandemic levels in the next year, and that the market will be favorable for the next few years.

Taxes
President Biden’s proposed tax plan raises the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, which would likely make M&A deals more expensive. Biden has also voiced support for an increase in capital gains taxes, which could impact M&A activity. The proposed plan would tax long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6% on income over $1 million, and eliminates step-up in basis for capital gains taxation. Sellers may be anxious to complete deals prior to 2021 to dodge higher taxes and potentially lower valuations, and to avoid having increased capital gains taxes cut into profits from a deal.

The Biden plan also restores the top individual federal income tax rate from 37% to the pre-Trump rate of 39.6%. It also promotes tax provisions to penalize the exporting of jobs overseas and to incentivize investments in new infrastructure and green energy, transportation and manufacturing, and establishes a minimum tax on corporations with book profits of $100 million or more, structured as a 15% alternative minimum tax, to prevent them from paying no taxes. The plan also offers tax credits to small businesses for adopting workplace retirement savings plans and creates a Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit to reduce the tax liability of businesses that face workforce layoffs or a major government institution closure.

It is important to note that getting tax code changes enacted into law requires congressional leadership and the White House to work together to reach consensus. This can be challenging, and can also take a considerable amount of time, meaning that there may not be immediate tax implications for M&A. But you still may not want to wait until 2021 to sell your company. Here’s why.  

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Benchmark International Is Proud To Be A Part Of The 2020 OCFO Founders Conference

Benchmark International is proud to be a part of the 2020 OCFO Founders Conference, taking place virtually, during Global Entrepreneurship Week on 19th November 2020.

As part of the event, Dustin Graham, Managing Partner of Transactions for Benchmark International's South African offices, will be speaking on the topic Building Your Business For Sale.

Topic: Building for Sale,  14:40–15:00 – Dustin Graham
Event date and time:
19th November 2020, 13:00–16:00
Location: Virtual event
Link to register and ticket sales:  https://zcu.io/1od4
Link to event agenda: https://www.foundersevents.co.za/agenda/

OCFO Founders Conference Annual Event
The annual Founders Conference normally takes place in the heart of beautiful Cape Town during Global Entrepreneurship Week. However, in the light of Covid-19, It was decided to host the Founders Conference as a virtual event this year.

The conference brings together top business people, investors, and entrepreneurs in South Africa for powerful networking, learning, and inspiration. The Founders Conference is one of the biggest gatherings of entrepreneurs on the African continent—not to be missed by any serious founder. Speakers include some of the most successful founders around the globe and investors who have raised and invested billions.

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How To Successfully Maintain A Strategic Partnership

Strategic partnerships or alliances can be very effective business tools and are important to the health and growth of a company. They can enhance capabilities, and open up shared access to new markets, channels, intellectual property and lowered risk. But they can also be complex. Once you form this type of partnership, it takes some effort to maintain it and ensure that it is a win-win for both parties involved. By taking the right steps and having a clear vision for your long-term strategic partnership, you can help it create value, thrive, and boost your business. 

Narrow Your Focus

There are many businesses that you could form a partnership with, but you have to narrow it down to what makes the most sense. What partners serve similar customer bases that make sense? For example, if you have a landscaping business, consider partnering with a nursery or a landscaping supply company. You’ll be serving the same buyer and can pass on referrals while streamlining the process and relationship for the customer.

See Both Sides

A strategic partnership, like any relationship, needs to work for both sides in order for it to flourish and yield mutual benefits. When you’re pitching the alliance to a potential partner, consider the benefits for them and present them clearly.

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