Pieter Ezinga

M&A deals with freelancers - the pros and cons for businesses

M&A deals with freelancers - the pros and cons for businesses
Pieter Ezinga

Pieter Ezinga

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How does someone in wedges riding a tractor end up working on high-profile M&A deals supporting private equity (portfolio) companies?

With 13+ years of experience, Pieter Ezinga works as an independent advisor in transaction services and M&A from his farm in Friesland. Mergers and acquisitions professionals work with businesses in strategic or financial acquisitions through due diligence, risk advice, and post-integration support. 

Today, many highly skilled M&A professionals work independently, benefiting both purchasers and vendors. This article shares insights for both business and freelancers on the concept of independence in M&A. 

The general benefits of hiring an independent M&A professional.

In M&A it’s all or nothing; sometimes there are many deals, sometimes none. This asks for flexibility. During periods of high deal activity, the company may experience temporary capacity constraints, which can be supplemented by flexible professionals.

Another benefit of working with independent M&A professionals is when the company requires specific knowledge, skills and experience. Companies with sporadic deal activity may not attract top players seeking full-time positions while interim professionals can bring in the required skill set.

100% independent advice

The main incentive of an interim M&A professional is to get the best result for the client, regardless of whether the deal closes. In addition, independent experts add a lot of value by being pragmatic, e.g. sharing key findings in understandable and concrete bullet points instead of a 1000-page report. Also, a freelancer often has one project at the time, giving them full focus on the particular deal (and that’s so good!). 

Sell-side benefits: Speed, capacity and expertise

M&A projects can take up to 9 months. As only a few companies are continuously sales-ready, it often leads to extensive work to get the company ready for sale. So, when there is momentum in the market, companies need to move quickly which requires extra capacity to deal with the on demand and additional workload. The CFO cannot solely handle it, as he must focus on daily operations to meet targets and secure the intended purchase price. External flexible support is precisely what is needed. 

As a seller, you have an information duty. Getting the data room ready is very important. The better the quality of the data and the data room, the better the reports of external advisors resulting in bigger chances of a deal. Interim M&A managers exactly know how to arrange the data and have full focus on getting the data room in order. 

In addition, skilled M&A professionals carefully filter confidential information to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. They are also trained to acknowledge negative aspects in such a way that they are addressed but won’t linger. So instead of sharing: “a major client was terminated” they would delicately mention that “due to a focus on margin over revenue, we have parted ways with a client in order to facilitate growth once again.” 

Buy-side benefits: Risk detection, BS filter and value

Buyers have an investigation duty. Potential purchasers often get overloaded with information and data that needs to be reviewed before closing a deal. Experienced M&A professionals have ample due diligence experience and understand how they should read the data and reports, speeding up the process and improving the assessment of the target. For example, when the seller mentions that the revenue target is ambitious, the expert understands they won't make it.

The information that a buyer receives from the seller is often positive. Question is which information is missing and why the buyer hasn't shared it. Skilled interim consultants help companies to see through the bullsh*t as they look beyond the polished brochure. 

A thorough due diligence adds a lot of value for the business and pays for itself many times by allowing the buyer to enter negotiations better prepared. Existing risks will better be quantified and taken into account in the selling price, guarantees from the seller or in the expectations of the buyer. 

Besides due diligence, the interim M&A consultant can also guide the company through the M&A process of post-merger integration. Note that individual experts can only handle deals up to a certain size and volume of information; beyond that, the company needs to engage a large firm.

Freedom, growth and focus - advantages for M&A freelancers 

The primary benefit of doing interim M&A projects is the freedom it offers, allowing you to select projects based on your preferences and schedule. A balanced variety in projects will secure a steep learning curve which is both exciting and energizing. Gaining experience in different companies where you take on new challenges, will boost your personal and professional growth. Ensure you select the right projects though, focusing on those that offer strategic opportunities and intellectual challenges, as they tend to be the most fulfilling. 

Advice for aspiring freelance M&A professionals

If you want to become a M&A professional working on strategic projects and deals on an interim basis, start your career at a large corporation. Accumulate enough flight hours (10,000 direct hours in 5-6 years) and learn the profession. Work on many deals and become really good at it. Pursue the most rigorous education within your field and get more than one degree.

Keep an eye on your finances, save some money and invest on the side. That way, you can allow yourself the freedom and also the insecurity that comes with freelancing. 

Own your personal branding both offline and online. Be active on LinkedIn by engaging with relevant posts in your niche, connecting with the important people in your field, gaining referrals of former managers and clients, keeping your profile up to date and so on. 

Finally, being independent, self confident and self starting will help you achieve success. 

Trust the process and your own experience

M&A professionals are generally well-educated and have a good job. Once you gain decent experience, you can almost be sure freelance projects will get in soon. Joining a community like Sweav can speed up the process of getting your first intellectual strategy opportunity.

About the author

Pieter Ezinga is an independent advisor to private equity (portfolio) companies. Besides transactional services like financial due diligence, vendor assistance, post-merger integration and portfolio value creation, he also takes on assignments as interim CFO, investment manager or M&A director. Pieter lives with his wife and three small kids on a farm in Friesland. For now, he enjoys the freedom of being independent. His endgame would be to invest his own money in a company and achieve a successful exit.

Pieter Ezinga

Pieter Ezinga

Independent advisor in transaction services and M&A

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