On Collaboration

Once the acquisition process begins, you’ll quickly discover that your new team of M&A Advisors are suddenly very present in the life of your company. Contact is almost daily; this team of recent strangers is asking questions and looking for information, and meetings are called. For the duration of the process, your advisors are just there.

There are two forms that presence tends to take:


This type of M&A Advisor keeps a detached, professional distance while giving the necessary direction and advice. They are, and remain an external entity that makes contact to dispense wisdom and collect information.

This sort of distant, functional relationship between buyers and their advisors is common enough and does get the job done, but it misses a lot of opportunities as well. It’s better to work with clients the way we do at Stillwater.


Stillwater Advisors are committed to a deliberately collaborative approach when we begin an acquisition process with a company like yours. We think of ourselves as partners, as part of the team.

Look for team-minded M&A Advisors. Not only does it make a sometimes strenuous time in your company’s life more pleasant when you work as a team, but collaboration also brings noticeable benefits to the whole process. The opposite approach treats its advisory duties almost like a strike team that enters the battle, expertly takes care of the enemy, and then vanishes. It may get the job done, but truly superior results will only come from a team that’s embedded in your company.

The best deals are formed through dialogue—real, quality interactions that get to the meat of the issue. That will reveal more about your business’s story and future than any database or spreadsheet can. Collaboration brings understanding to a process rather than mere knowing.

So look for a team spirit in your Advisory Team. You should be able to sense that collaborative approach from your very first meeting.

Your M&A Advisors will bring skills, procedures, and experience to the acquisition process. You bring your expertise, history, vision, mission, and passion.

One of the stops on the acquisition timeline where a collaborative approach is most critical happens just as the Preparatory Stage first moves into Market Outreach.

Market Outreach usually begins with a large, intelligently compiled list of a hundred or more companies that fit your set acquisition parameters. The quality of that list depends on the quality of collaboration that went into its creation.

Advisors who think of themselves as an external force dispensing expertise from above will tend to take shortcuts here—they’ll get a cursory understanding of your company’s structure and finances and what sort of business you’re looking to buy and generate a professional-looking list of prospects based on their knowledge of your company, from their viewpoint.

You will get better results when things get personal. Look for a quality of curiosity in your Advisors. Make sure they ask a lot of questions. More importantly, make sure they listen when you respond.

Your earliest conversations with a Stillwater team of advisors center around you—your business, your capabilities, your wants and needs from an acquisition. They are relatively easy discussions based on simple questions. They work best in a collaborative atmosphere.

And specifically on the subject of acquisitions, our team will want to know the answer to questions like—

What companies do you already have in mind?

Why those companies? What would acquiring any of them do for your business?

Have you approached anyone about purchasing their company in the past? What was the result?

Even as your answers change as the process continues, these initial discussions help your Advisors form the right way to think—about your business now and about the new company you’ll one day acquire—and allow us to zero in on the correct strategic requirements we need to build a deal for you.

We’ll learn the basic facts—the right service offering to look for, ideal geographic markets to survey, the best structure and size of the company—but most importantly, through partnership and connection, we’ll have gained a sense of the hundred other intangible factors that quietly influence your journey through the acquisition process. A collaborative spirit gives us an internalized understanding of what makes your company tick, and that’s the knowledge that advisors who keep their distance won’t ever gain.

The deal you sign at the end of the acquisition process will be better if your M&A Advisors consider themselves partners in the journey, co-laborers in the fields with you. That’s part of the process in every deal we make at Stillwater. It just works better that way.

You can put us to the test on that. Start your own process of buying a business by contacting us here.

It’s never too early to begin the conversation about the acquisition process. Bring us your questions here.

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Written by: Douglas Nix