Kison-Patel-squareIn this episode, we're talking with Kison Patel who is an expert on a specific Agile methodology which is called Scrum. You will know what are the different methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban that can optimize the priorities and workflow in managing your business.

Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a project management software for complex financial transactions. Kison has over a decade of experience as an M&A advisor and developed DealRoom after experiencing first-hand a number of deep-seated, industry-wide inefficiencies and challenges.

Through developing technology, educational content and industry trainings, Kison aims to bring better process solutions to an industry with growing market pressures, transaction values and competition.

 
Transcript

Narrator:        Welcome to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where you'll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You'll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program, and fund your retirement program. When you do this, you will have a sale‑ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want, in the way you want.

In Cracking the Cash Flow Code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he's learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning, and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.

Josh Patrick:   Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. And you're at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. And my guest today is Kison Patel. And I've probably just massacred his name because I didn't ask him how to pronounce it. He's a really interesting guy. He’s a mergers and acquisition guy. And he's an expert on what's called Agile technologies. So, we're going to learn about what Agile technologies are. And I'm not even quite sure how the two get put into one place, but we're going to learn together about this. So, let's bring Kison on.

First, did I pronounce your name correctly?

Kison Patel:    Almost. It’s Kison. It sounds like Nissan with a K.

Josh:                Kison. Well, I was close. Well, we’ll--

Kison:              You're good. I grew up in small town Nebraska. I've heard every variation of that - of the name I have.

Josh:                Yeah, I have that with mine. I have two first names so that confuses people also.

So, Kison, first of all, you’re an M&A person, correct? Mergers and acquisition person?

Kison:              Absolutely.

Josh:                And you're also an expert at Agile technologies. And one of the methodologies for that is called Scrum. Are you an advocate of Scrum or other types of Agile?

Kison:              You know, I've managed Scrum teams before. I would say, today, and probably for the last six, seven years, it's been more of a Kanban flow.

Josh:                Oh, okay.

Kison:              And we just create Kanban. Yeah, and we just sort of line that around quarterly goals but not so much of like actual sprints.

Josh:                Cool.

Kison:              I think just because of the nature, just to clarify, that we have a mature team. If I was running a newer team and there are people I haven't worked with for a long history, then I would probably look at implementing Scrum and sprints and really structuring it more that way.

Josh:                So, I'm going to promise you that most of our listeners have no idea what a Kanban board is. So, could you explain what that is, please?

Kison:              Oh, it was the Japanese word that means signpost. It's a model that originated from Lean manufacturing. So, think TPS (Toyota Production Systems). And, for them, they were solving a problem of like just‑in‑time delivery for auto parts in manufacturing their vehicles.

But then, the idea, the concept, transported over in the software space. Can we use a Kanban board to optimize the workflow when working with the various team members so that here's a list or a backlog of things that need to get done and can we keep it in a descending order of priority? So, whoever is on the team looks at the tasks that need to be accomplished and they can see clearly what's the number one priority, followed by the number two priority, and it descends down. And as priorities shift, you would simply move items to where they need to be and clarify what that priority is. And then, you move-- it continues. You'll have another column for things in progress. And again, you maintain that prioritization. It's highly effective.

I actually took it to a point where I run the household that way. I have three little kids and they understand what a Kanban is. They know like, “Okay. We’ve got weekend activities but let's prioritize our ideas to make sure we get the big things that we all really want to do done.” So, I find it helpful in personal management very much so.

Josh:                Yeah, I actually use a Kanban board for my own personal management also, so.

Kison:              Yeah.

Josh:                It's a great tool for that. If I have a project, it goes on a Kanban board. That's all there is to it.

I'm going to guess you specialize in working with tech companies, am I correct in that?

Kison:              No. We're really diversified. I think our unique focus is we focus on corporate M&A.

Josh:                Okay.

Kison:              So, a lot of times, we're working with larger-- we work with a high volume of one to 10 billion market cap companies. But then we're also working with even larger ones like BP, Emerson, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health. So, we're across a variety of different industries.

I think it's more around the challenge for these larger organizations that will do multiple acquisitions throughout any given year. But to go through that process and successfully integrate the company. When you go through the actual integration process, one, it’s the most critical because that’s where, ultimately, generate value that you anticipated or you destroy a lot of value. So, really, critical to determine the success of the deal.

But then, within that, it's the largest magnitude of change management any organization will ever go through. And to be able to execute that level of change management without disrupting, pissing off people, and, you know, taking some things that are frAgile and destroying it, like it's really difficult to do. So that's where our focus and competencies are on. And it, ultimately, boils down to the people. You know, when we think about, “How do we make M&A successful?” It's the mindset of going from the traditional view of this as a financial transaction to this is all about the people. And we really need to align people from the beginning and keep them engaged throughout this process.

Josh:                So, you're working with mega corporations but I'm going to also bet that your methodology would work with a small blue‑collar business doing a $500,000‑acquisition?

Kison:              Fundamentally, yeah. Especially if, you know, you're doing post close activity and you need people involved to work together. Absolutely.

Josh:                So, the challenge that I see and, you know, people who do acquisitions and don't work in the M&A field don't realize that the vast, vast, vast majority of acquisitions are non‑accretive which means they fail to provide financial benefit to the buyer. I'm going to assume, by using Agile technologies or a Kanban board in the integration process, that your success rate is significantly higher.

Kison:              Yeah. I mean, the success is higher. And I want to spend a little time around the case for why an Agile approach to M&A makes sense.

Josh:                Okay. Please, because I think that's a-- that's what got you on the show because that made me really curious.

Josh:                Yeah, yeah. It's fun. I've done in talks around that with the Agile practitioners. A lot of them come from software - on the software space. And a lot of the components from Agile was borrowed from lean manufacturing model, but it really focused on the nature and problem with software where you build software, with a lot of unknowns. And not so much unknowns but assumptions. I want to build a solution. And I have a quite a few assumptions that I'm building around in terms of what the customer wants and how they want the solution to act to solve their problems. And as you go through and develop your solution, with an Agile model, the ideas you're focused on responding to the changes as they happen. So, as you can build like your minimum viable product to just proof of concept, you're gathering feedback and iterating on it.

And then, I think, also the value delivery. So, if we take the traditional building software, we're going to create this detail spec and blueprint of what we're going to build. And then, when we go about it, we're really looking at one big project plan.

In an Agile approach, we're going to break it down and say, “Okay. What are we trying to build here?” and create a list of the key features saying, “We can build some milestones around key features we're going to deliver.”

And let's just say, Josh, there was like seven of ‘em that we're going to set up. Once we have that detailed-- I'm not going to detail them all out like a typical project plan. I'm only going to laser focus on, again, the order of priority. What's the top priority or the second one? Really focus on maybe the first one or two and detail that out. And then we go out and develop it. Now, we’ve got some functionality to show and saying, “Hey, the most important thing was getting the profiles and login functionality” and be able to demonstrate.

And then, we go into the second one which, you know, maybe is that listing or something like that to help with the problem solve. And then, obviously, you take it to market. We’ll get feedback. And we may realize that there's things that we had in the lineup that don't make sense anymore. And we're saying, “All right. We don't need this feature.” We just cross it out or we need to shift priority. And this other feature we thought wasn't as important is actually really important. Now, we can bump it up in our list. So, really, it creates this dynamic way of working, where you're very much focused on what's the priority at the current time.

When it comes to M&A, we start our process really early with very few people involved. You know, you think of first class, you know, a couple of executives get together and say, “I'm going to sell my factory to you.” You’ve got a handshake deal going, right? But then everything that transpires after that, it's more and more people getting involved. We're going to go through this phase of building out the models, really, to justify the value of the company. But as we continue, we'll start doing diligence and we'll pull more and more people involved from my organization, as an acquirer, and it could be my functional leads. I may find that we don't have the resources we need and rely on external consultants. And they're coming in helping to really do this study, validate what we're paying for is justified in the price and in the business and really identify risks at the end of the day. So, we're constantly acquiring new information. And that new information allows us to identify where these potential risks or even new opportunities we may not have originally thought about what the business. So, with that, information flow continuously coming in, we want to be able to optimize our valuation model, for one, so that if we have an evaluation model that's based off of assumptions on how we're going to create value in the company, we want to be able to update that as we get new information.

And then, also, our integration plan. How are we actually going to execute and generate value once we've completed this transaction? And that should evolve through iterations. That’s where Agile really fits well. And I started with just learning about it from managing our own engineering team and had ideas around it with prior experience working M&A.

But it actually wasn't-- I feel like, Josh, I blogged about it, but nobody ever looked at these blogs. But it wasn't till later on when I interviewed Google and Atlassian and actually got real concrete evidence on how they used Agile techniques that stemmed from their engineering culture and they were able to apply it to M&A with great success. And even that Google like attributed a lot of their scale and speed to the fact that they use these Agile approaches. And I think that's what of validated things for us to go as far as putting a book out there, as a framework, to help other organizations be able to understand ways that Agile would create the efficiency and optimization in their M&A process.

Josh:                That's great.

You know, one of the things I've been learning in the past three or four years is that there's almost an unlimited use for Agile technologies in any company, no matter what you do - whether it's your office procedures, or your manufacturing procedures, or how you put drywall up, if you're a subcontractor. And in your case, you're using it for M&A which makes a ton of sense because an awful lot of people, or at least in my experience, waste a lot of time in the beginning of the M&A process trying to figure out whether this is the right person for us to go after. And they never really do figure out why. It becomes an ego thing an awful lot. Does that make sense?

Kison:              Absolutely. We had deal fever. You get bogged up in just wanting to get the deal done and you tend to overlook some of the big red flags.

Josh:                Well, I also find that in deals that go for a lot of money, they're usually done through a structured auction process of some sort. When I say a lot of money, I mean, a lot of, you know, the multiple of earnings that somebody will apply towards a business. If an industry is five times, you often will see-- not often, but you will see, from time to time, a five‑time business sell for nine or 10 times earnings. And I often find that that happens because two things happen. One is they have the M&A people are doing a structured auction on the sell side. And, two, you get buyers where your egos get involved.

A great example is I had a friend-- I used to be in the vending and food service business. And I had a friend who sold his business in North Carolina. And he got twice what the business was worth. And the reason he got twice was because the CEOs of two of the companies that were trying to buy ‘em hated each other and got into a bidding war. And it’s sort of a stupid contest between the two of ‘em who's going to buy it. Then, they bought the business and they proceeded to completely ignore his advice even though his bottom line was four times the industry average.

Kison:              Yeah. It's tough. There's a lot of incidences like that.

Josh:                Yeah, it was actually-- they were sold to companies the size that you would represent, both were billion‑dollar buyers. That was one of the things a friend of mine in the M&A world taught me. He says, “If you can sell your business to a company that does over a billion dollars in sales, you can often get overpaid.”

Kison:              Wow. Yeah. No, it's true. It's an interesting industry in that regard. You know, there's no clear‑cut formulas in how businesses are valued. And the value is based on the interpretation of the buyer and where do they see their opportunity to create value.

We've seen a shift. You know, the old day was you look at it and there's a typical industry average multiplier on their EBITDA but those were referred to as financial based transactions. They're gone. I mean, this market is so competitive, you have to think of synergies. What are you going to do to find these avenues to generate value beyond what the current existing state is? You know, is it the integrations? Are you doing some cost savings by integrating different functions with your company? Are there revenue synergies and opportunities to grow the revenue with cross selling and some of these other, you know, creating new product lines to add on to your distribution model?

Josh:                So, what is the one, two, or three biggest mistakes you see acquirers make when they're going through the M&A process?

Kison:              The biggest mistake that acquirers make. I think a lot of it goes-- first one is the integration. Like, if you don't think about integration early enough, then that gets you. That was a big problem in the past was companies would think about it when they get closer to closing, and various reasons that, “Hey, I don't want to put the resources there. We don't have that certainty of close.” Things of that sort.

But the shift is moving to that theme around creating a people‑focused process, that you should have the CEO of the company acquiring, with the integration lead, developing a go‑to market outline and really bring that end state to the front end of the process so there's clarity on, “Where are we trying to go with this transaction?”

And, ultimately, obviously for the seller, there's a lot of financial outcomes for them. But for everybody else involved - the people, the organization itself, what is that going to look like? How is this company going to come together? And it being a real good outcome for everybody involved, then putting that up front and detailing it out, and what that go to market’s going to look like.

And then, as you move into diligence, running a workstream that runs right along diligence to continuously plan integration with information received from diligence. That's going to help with the actual execution, in making sure that, once the deal closes, everyone's aligned - both the company acquiring and the company getting acquired. And they have a clear understanding on what the game plan is to generate value when the deal’s done and they're committed to it. I think that's where you'll find better commitment, better outcomes, and avoid a lot of the risk and value leaks that we typically see which boil down to attrition. You know, you go through this complex change management process and you frustrate people, they'll leave.

Josh:                Yeah. We actually have a process we like to use with our selling clients. If they’re going to sell a business we tell them to put in what's called a stay bonus. So, their key people have a large financial reward that comes to them if they stay for six months to a year. And if the acquirer can't integrate these folks over six months to a year, shame on them.

Kison:              Yeah. There's a practitioner, Klint Kendrick, who's wrote a lot on the HR perspective with M&A. He writes a lot about this - identifying key people, developing retention plans. I highly recommend that, you know, just great content around that as well.

Josh:                Yeah, it's something which I think is a big deal.

What you just described sounds a lot like what I've read about how Cisco Systems integrates companies they buy. You know, one point--

Kison:              We did a podcast interview, earlier this year, with their head of integration, Karen Ashley. It's interesting because we talked about how Cisco's approach has really evolved. And it's become even more people centric - all about the experience they're creating, for the company they're acquiring, really make them part of that journey and less feel like they're going through this massive process of really emphasizing the people focus.

I don't know. It's definitely a big shift in how organizations are thinking about it, especially when they realize they're doing these deals and they're missing their mark. And when they look at why it wasn't because they screwed up the financial model, it's because the people experience wasn't there and people ultimately got frustrated and left.

Josh:                Yeah. To me, that seems like a very large issue. Especially, it's true, if you're trying to buy a company and you can't get their special sauce, whatever that special sauce may be, that made you want to buy ‘em. If it doesn't really fit with your corporate culture, why bother?

Kison:              Big time.

That’s another view, when we talked about why people - these deals get messed up. I think when you look at the CEOs that are working on putting a deal together, a lot of times they don't put this emphasis or focus on values. And we talk a lot about culture fit and some deals blowing up because of the culture mismatch, always the Daimler Chrysler, you know, just is a prime example of that where it’s a culture mismatch and the deal didn't work out well.

If CEOs could spend the time and emphasize the values of their companies and use that as a driver to really understand how their organizations will come together. You know, are we operating on a top‑down management approach? And that's what we are here to do. And the other companies are relatively flat empowering, Agile‑based culture. It's really different. Big things to think about how those organizations will actually come together if they're that distinctly different. And I think it'll help companies organize around where their values are in common and be able to build a narrative around why organizations are going to work together that would appeal to the people in those organizations versus just the financial outcomes.

Josh:                Yeah, in my experience, the financial outcomes are never going to come unless the people outcomes are taken care of. And when we're trying to help people build a sustainable business, we always start with values because, if you're not values LED, what the heck is your business about?

Kison:              I learned it the hard way, you know. I didn't--

Josh:                We all learn the hard way. I learned the hard way, too.

Kison:              That was also a lot of stuff, fluffy stuff. But, when I realized it, if you can visualize your success and reverse engineer it, you can dial it to specific values. And then, in turn, if you develop your team around those values, you end up with much, much better alignment and a good focus on how you're going to actually achieve those goals.

Josh:                You know, the truth is, there's two sides to a business. There's the economic side for economic sustainability and the personal side for personal sustainability. And personal sustainability is all about values, and what you believe in, and what's important for you. Especially with Gen Z and millennials, if you're not values lead, they're not hanging around a long time.

Kison:              Yeah. I agree. I think that's what create those core common pillars. But then give teammates some room. But as long as you know, like we're driven off these core pillars, in our beliefs, in the way we interact with the market, treat each other, and commitment to the customers, it goes a long way. And then, from there, it's clearer too like where everyone has the autonomy to be themselves and be personable as well.

Josh:                Yep.

Well, Kison, we are, unfortunately, out of time. So, I'm going to bet that there are some people listening to this podcast who would like to get in contact with you. I don't know if a lot of ‘em would be good prospects for you but, if they want to find out more about you, how would they go about doing it?

Kison:              We're big. I love Introducing M&A as a career. We actually own and operate a school for teaching people that are interested in getting into the M&A field.

Josh:                Oh, cool.

Kison:              Yeah. We have a portfolio of products, all education and technology related, to making M&A better world, better place.

Josh:                Great.

Kison:              You can learn about that at www.mascience.com.

Josh:                Okay.

Kison:              Just, mascience.com. And myself, I'm always on LinkedIn. I love networking on LinkedIn. And it's just KisonPatel on LinkedIn.

Josh:                Great, great.

And I've got two things I want you to do. And you've heard me say this now 350 times which is please go to where you're listening to this podcast, and give us an honest rating and review. If you love us, you can say you love us. If you hate us, you'll give us one star and I'll cry a little bit, but I might get over it. But, boy, rating and reviewing just is really, really, really important. Please go and do it.

And the second thing is about, well, three or four weeks ago, my second book made it out into the wild. It’s called The Sale Ready Company. And I'm selling it on my own website for $7.95 which is about 50% off what you can buy it Amazon. And if you buy it off my website, you get a whole bunch of bonuses that go along with it that will explain to you how to do all the things we talked about in the book because the book is a novel. It's what's called the business parable, where we follow the Aardvark family through their effort to get a family‑owned business ready to transition to the next generation or not. You’d have to read the book to find out how that works out. At any rate, you can get the book at www.salereadycompany.com. That's www.salereadycompany.com.

And this is Josh Patrick. We're with Kison Patel. You're at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

 

Narrator:        You've been listening to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?”

If you've liked what you've heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102, or visit us on our website at www.sustainablebusiness.co, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@stage2solution.com.

Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.

 

Topics: Scrum, Agile, Kanban, Kison Patel

Posts by Tag

See all

Subscribe to receive notifications about our most recent podcasts, videos, and blogs