Middle market investment banking provides some unique challenges for both buyer and seller.
Most importantly, the number of buyers or sellers available to do a transaction, relative to the very large deals that dominate the headlines, is huge. Many people underestimate how many possible targets or buyers there are to complete their transaction. It’s one of the reasons why an M&A advisor is even more important for a middle market transaction.
Another major distinction of middle market investment banking is that most of the entrepreneurs have never purchased or sold a business before. For many of these individuals, pursuing a transaction may be difficult to understand. M&A can be a complex maze. For example, it’s important how and when certain information is released, when and what type of Non-Disclosure Agreement is used, and how to structure a transaction that is fair to both parties.
The value of a middle market investment banking transaction is always a hot topic among both buyer and seller. Many entrepreneurs have devoted themselves to building their business so they’re not familiar with terms like EBITDA or multiples. There are many stories about this misunderstanding, for example, one entrepreneur was telling everyone that the EBITDA multiple was dictated by the company’s zip code. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this poignant comment is a clue that M&A is a highly specialized field. Another entrepreneur noted that they wanted to sell their business for x million based on his retirement needs, the necessity of paying for their grandchildren’s college educations, etc. Those were all admirable goals, but had nothing to do with the value of the business.
Negotiating a transaction is an art, not a science. To be successful, both parties, on either side of a transaction, need to focus on win-win negotiating. That usually produces the best outcome for both parties. As most middle market business owners do not have significant M&A negotiating experience, there are frequently many transactions that fail. Most of them could have had a positive outcome, but the parties did not find a solution fast enough to keep the transaction moving forward.
To summarize, middle market investment banking is different than very large company investment banking. First of all, most of the time, it’s the individuals’ own money that is at stake. Large companies have millions of shareholders and a mistake on an M&A transaction won’t carry the consequences of a bad transaction for an individual. In most cases, the success of a middle market transaction could be insured by engaging professional investment bankers who know how to navigate the complex M&A maze, can guide the negotiations, and have the requisite experience to structure a mutually acceptable transaction.