Friday, March 24, 2006

Playing Devil's Advocate

Equity Private notes that in her firm, two team members are assigned to each potential deal as "pro" and "risk" advocates - an excellent example of a formalized way of maximizing input on a decision.

Most corporations do this in a similar, if less formal way, with the CFO playing the role of the "risk" advocate. As I've stressed in earlier posts, corp dev types can't afford to let this happen - you need to internalize both the "pro" and the "risk" mindsets (even if it means taking on a formal process). If you only present the good news, and your CFO has to continuously be the one to ferret out the risks, your credibility will be gone in a hurry.

In private equity, there's more allowance given for aggressively pushing a deal. After all, putting the investor's money to work via acquisitions is the name of the game, and the only real question is whether your deal is as pretty as the other deals.

In a corporation, senior management will be suspicious of deals being pushed too aggressively, especially if there's any whiff that important issues are being glossed over in the rush for approval. Senior leaders certainly care about the IRR of your deal relative to other potential investments, and, like in private equity, they also care about the risk that this IRR won't be realized. However, they will also care about integration and organic growth, subjects not typically of concern to a private equity investment committee (except in cases where the target is to be integrated into another portfolio company). As a consequence, you may have a lovely deal that sparkles in all the right ways, but if you haven't objectively addressed the integration risks and the build/buy analysis up front, you may well see it leave the investment committee in tatters.

No comments: