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How To Succeed With Mergers And Acquisitions With Jeremy Harbour

Updated: May 29


Picture of Jeremy Harbour
Jeremy Harbour: International M&A Expert


Lance Tyson’s guest in this episode is Jeremy Harbour, the founder of The Unity Group. Jeremy is an expert in mergers and acquisitions. And while his approach to sales may differ a bit from what you are accustomed to, you'll find he's governed by many of the same principles, such as the need for business and sales processes. And that people do business with people, not businesses. To be successful, you have to know your clients and prospects. So if you want to broaden your perspective of the B2B sales process, read all the wisdom coming from Jeremy, and you'll gain insights into your own sales process. Lance: One of my weaknesses is talking too much and maybe not listening as much as I should. One of the other great rapport builders or great empathy builders comes from some depth of experience. You can create a great rapport and great empathy if you have experience in their sector, their business or you understand. There are commonalities that you can draw upon that make them instantly think, “This guy knows what he's talking about.” That's another way you can shortcut.


Jeremy: What you said is true. In my book, I talk about three factors, rapport, understanding and then credibility. Credibility, trust and rapport allow you to persuade or influence.


Understanding is that EQ, that empathy or sympathy. Sometimes it’s even sympathy for other people's ideas. You can't go on and tax somebody's baby after they build it for 40 years. As I was doing my research on you, you're hard-hitting. What are you like when it comes to objections in negotiation? Are you tenacious? Are you calculated? What are your moves there?


I don't think there's a magic secret sauce to negotiating. You have to have a range of options, and be pragmatic and flexible around the solution that you're providing. All too often, you'll see this a lot in sales where they've got one thing they can sell you. It's like going to a barber. They've got one thing to sell you.


I always see this challenge, particularly with M&A deals. Somebody who has read a book about M&A is focused on a leveraged buyout. You put some cash in, you borrow some money from the bank, and you make them an offer. If that doesn't work, you offer them more. You go back to the bank and see if you can borrow more to see if they can finance it more. They have this one solution and they keep pushing and pushing against the one solution.


What we have are fourteen different ways we can slice the cake. If that one is not resonating, we can do or solve it in a completely different way. Having that flexibility and also the ability to deliver a different solution quickly and on your feet effectively, and to see how the physiology of that suggestion is landing with the other party is the key. It's not necessarily a hard negotiation around a number. It's around finding the right solution to that person's problem, and recognizing when you haven't quite hit the nail on the head. The physiology doesn't match or there's some challenge.


Lance: About 70% of our business is in sports and entertainment. I couldn't think of a worse industry to be in than sports entertainment. Getting a bunch of groups of people together to watch things is not great. We've been looking at a lot of different studies and looking for research partners. One study that came up at Florida State was when they started to look at high-performing salespeople. They started to notice that the highest performing salespeople were agile.


“Develop the ability to deliver a different solution quickly to see how the physiology of that suggestion is landing with the other party.”

They use the strategy at the moment that would best succeed. I call it the new business reality. If I hear the new normal again, I'm going to headbutt somebody because that invokes that we're going back to what it was. It's going to be what it is, and what got us here might not get us there. What we're suggesting now is you better go in with multiple strategies.


We had an NFL team go and pitch a big convenience store that's going to be a partnership. It's going to have a lot of digital components to it. It's a multimillion-dollar deal. The prep we did for that was about 4 or 5 strategies. Lo and behold, they went into the pitch. Thank God, that big food store chain had 2 or 3 strategies because the main one was not the one they went after. It was the third strategy. If you're not flexible and adaptable, it's key. What's your advice as we start bringing this down to landing? You're from Singapore. If you’re in business now, what’s some advice around COVID that you’re seeing?


Jeremy: In my business, we make our money in recessions. About half my wealth is from the last recession. I don't want to be gleeful because it's a pretty horrible situation for everybody. There is a lot of opportunities that also come from recessions. Many multimillion-dollar fortunes have been created in recessions. Some of the biggest companies in the world are formed in recessions. I would encourage your readers not to let a good recession go to waste without being too trivial about the whole thing.


The thing I've seen in every recession is the difference between those who react quickly and make changes, and those who wait for it to go back to how it was. If you sit there and wait for it to go back to how it was, you’ll get wiped out. You’ll get dumped by the wave. You want to be riding the wave. You have to adapt quickly. You have to do something new and different.


I saw a cocktail bar in Singapore that closed down because of the crisis. I saw another one that sent people all the mixes and taught the mixology over Zoom and did cocktail evenings. I saw a beauty salon that closed down, and I saw a beauty salon that did a seven-day facial detox program with video instructions each day. They send you a basket full of stuff and then every day you get a video on what you stuck on your face on that particular day to do an at-home spa. Those businesses were thinking about how they can pivot and do things a little bit differently instead of sitting there with their salon closed, complaining and waiting for when the rules are going to change so they can open it again.


The first thing is you have to adapt. The second thing is this is a great time to consolidate an industry. If you're in an industry that's fragmented, your competitors are squeaking too. It’s now the time that you all get together. United we stand, divided we fall. It could be a great time for mergers to save costs and get best practices. It could be a great time to consolidate or perhaps retire owners who don't want to go through another recession.


If you're a Baby Boomer and you went through the European debt crisis, 9/11 and the dot-com crash, you know this movie. You know this movie is three years long and we're right at the beginning of it. Do you want to swing your arms and not land any punches for the next three years, or do you want to do something now, get out and spend those three years doing something?


That’s such good advice. I'm going to ask you a couple of interesting questions and bring this bird down for a landing. I can tell watching you that when you start talking about deals, the covering comes over like a shark. That's a compliment. I appreciate that. I get pretty excited about doing any sales deal, especially one that means something. I have a sale song. It's Onyx’s Slam. It's an old rap song that I play in my head right before a deal. What song are you playing during a deal?


I would never have thought about that. It's funny that you chose a rap one because the first thing that popped into my head was NWA’s Express Yourself. It’s being funky but there's a proper message in there as well. When you leave, it’s that Call Me Maybe. It’s the irritating one a few years ago.


Lance: Last question and we’ll pull this together. My favorite interviewer is Howard Stern and my favorite podcaster is Tim Ferriss. He always goes, “If you're going to gift a book, what book are you gifting?”


Jeremy: I read a lot and I read loads of good books. Sometimes the ones that get me thinking the most are the ones that had nothing to do with business at all. It’s something left field. I remember reading Andre Agassi's book,. I'm not a tennis fan at all. After that, I was like, “I'm going to go watch Wimbledon.” That was an inspiring and good book. I enjoyed Richard Pryor's autobiography as well. I found that was quite inspiring. Life is too short. He talks a lot about feeling the sun on your face one more time and things like that. He was dying when he wrote it.


I read this book called The Spy and the Traitor, It's a true story about a KGB agent that the British managed to turn. He became the head of the KGB and he was a British spy. It's the most insane story you've ever read because it's true. You’ll get sucked into it. Hope you enjoyed this conversation between Lance Tyson and Jeremy Harbour. Listen to it here.

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