The acquisition strategy conclave is an approach that CDI Global has used effectively to help clients clarify and focus their acquisition programs. The conclave, which is made up of facilitated working sessions of senior business line and support executives, is intended to build alignment regarding the key growth challenges facing a company and the best steps for addressing them. The goal of the conclave process is to reach agreement on a focused and clear acquisitions program. Such a program specifies priorities, strategies and tactics, budgets, and timetable and must have broad management support and be actionable within the near to intermediate term. Because the conclave is results-oriented, the process does not conclude until management has agreed to a coherent acquisitions strategy and implementation framework.
When is conclave appropriate? There are many, many circumstances for which the conclave process can be an effective and efficient growth driver for a company. A handful of examples follow:
- Diverse interpretations exist among key executives regarding strategic growth challenges and the implications that cause inaction on available opportunities.
- A company has recently established a new strategic direction but has not yet worked through all the details of implementation, including the possible role for acquisitions or other types of business combination.
- The strategic plan for growing the core business of a company will not achieve the financial performance objectives that have been set, and there is a need to make the right acquisitions to close the "performance gap."
Whether or not the conclave process is appropriate for a given company can be explored by asking a few simple diagnostic questions. For example, does the senior leadership team have a clear line of sight regarding the correct balance between organic and non-organic growth investments? Does the management team need to come together on particularly difficult or contentious issues surrounding a company's growth strategy priorities or implementation? Does the company need to develop its acquisitions strategy and supporting program in more detail in order to better translate its components into meaningful line-of-business strategies?
How does the conclave process work? Typically, the conclave process consists of two or three facilitated meetings with a group of 8-12 senior executives. Prior to each conclave meeting, CDI Global interviews the conclave participants and other senior executives to identify and clarify the issues to be addressed at the conclave meeting and to compile available research and internal information pertinent to the issues that will be discussed at the conclave meeting. A pre-read document is prepared for review by the conclave participants in advance of each meeting. The facilitation process focuses the conclave participants squarely on the issues at hand, while encouraging candor and breakthrough thinking. Techniques are used for capturing differences of view regarding acquisition priorities and characteristics among other important issues. Following the initial conclave meeting, participants may be assigned to teams that fill gaps in the fact base or analysis necessary for reaching consensus on key issues and making decisions about a course of action. CDI Global supports the teams in completing their assignments. Following each conclave meeting, the results are documented so that they can be used as input for briefings to the board of directors as well as for developing an explicit acquisitions program and funding plan. At the end of the process, executive management is positioned to advocate to the board of directors a clear and coherent acquisition strategy and supporting plan.
A few selected cases of successful application of the acquisition strategy conclave are summarized in the chart below. The principal benefit of this process is simple. It works! The reason is that the process is an efficient, issue-driven way of articulating an acquisitions strategy and program that are purposeful and effective rather than opportunistic and serendipitous. The process itself is fact-based and future-oriented and aims at achieving the best growth strategy and action plan that all key executives and the company understand and support -- and, thereby, will act on. As such, the acquisition strategy conclave accelerates growth by making the right deals with the right strategic fit and at the right price.