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Broken Handoff

Are you a serial entrepreneur? Read this book.

Broken Handoff

I met one of the authors of "Broken Handoff", Seth Gordon, earlier this summer. We were sharing experiences in corporate acquisitions, and laughing. He mentioned that he and two friends had seen so many of these transactions fail, and all for the same reasons, that they wrote a book. Because I enjoyed the conversation, I ordered the book from Amazon and let it sit on my desk. Last week Microsoft pushed a Windows update at me, so while waiting through the install I read the first couple of chapters. I couldn't put it down.

A failed transaction, a "Broken Handoff", is one that doesn't achieve its aspirational goal - an easy accretion of value for the acquired operators and the acquiring investors. Usually the deal falls short of producing profit (stats say in roughly 70% of cases, it results in a loss); or it takes a much longer time and a lot more work to produce. Often it results in the loss of good people and ideas.

What I find so engaging here is the no-nonsense presentation of problems, and road maps for heading them off. This is thorough, real life, experiential guide - not a finance testbook. I was amazed that in one M&A experience, we shared so many (75% maybe) of these experiences. In our case, through the willingness and good faith of both parties, we worked through the problems. But it sure would have been easier if we'd never had to.

"Broken Handoff" puts the problems in these transactions front and center, unlike other M&A guides that focus on the mechanics of the transaction and mention potential problems as an afterthought. Problems have solutions, and the authors offer those. Unfortunately, like many life problems, the solutions require experience, forethought, and good faith - sometimes hard to find in these transactions.

If I had read "Broken Handoff" before Averica's sale, I'd have brushed off many of the warnings, thinking that my team was smart enough to handle the deal. Tempered by my experience and armed with the authors', I'll be much better armed for my next one.

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