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Business Owners

The Role of the C-Suite in M&A Deals


For middle market companies, a successfully executed M&A transaction can prove beneficial to all parties. However, the process is rarely without complications. Whether you’re the sellside CEO of a company you started ten years ago or a buyside owner eyeing growth through acquisition, the transaction process involves enough moving parts to intimidate even the strongest leadership team.

The first step for any company embarking on a deal is to clearly understand the role of every member of the executive team. Especially for transactions that are likely to change the structure or daily operations of a company, employees see confident and efficient leaders as assurance that everything is going as planned. Each member of the C-suite plays an integral role in the deal process.

CEO: Visionary Leader

In normal times, the CEO often plays the role of the strategic visionary, focusing on high-level planning and motivation. Internal and external stakeholders look to the CEO to guide long-term business goals and outlooks.

During a deal, this role becomes even more important as the company enters what is inevitably a confusing time for employees and customers alike. Rather than just providing details about company growth during periodic updates, the CEO can also alleviate fears and explain how the deal aligns with company strategy and mission.

COO: Details Executor

The COO works closely with the CEO to translate the high-level strategic vision into operational realities. Especially for larger middle market companies, the COO is the go-to person for executing the CEO’s vision for success.

While the motivational role of the CEO is amplified during a transaction, the COO becomes the point person for all details related to the deal. He’s on the ground with employees and other C-suite members to coordinate efforts on all fronts, and is closely tracking success metrics from all departments.

CFO: Synergy Capturer

Responsible for both general financial efficiency and client-related accounting operations, the CFO has one of the most all-encompassing roles in the company. An M&A transaction is a CFO’s most important exercise in financial efficiency and can be the most exciting phase of a CFO’s career.

The CFO’s responsibilities change depending on what phase of the transaction process the company is in. Creating the transaction plan, translating financial metrics to key players, and maximizing financial synergies are just a few of the CFO’s responsibilities during a deal.

CIO: Integration Roadmapper

Normally, the CIO is the key player for the management and implementation of information and technology across departments. With the increasing prevalence of technology in the business landscape, the CIO’s role in many organizations has grown rapidly

During a deal, the CIO oversees the integration process, working closing with the CFO to determine the most efficient way to bring together multiple companies. This means making decisions about which company’s systems best fit the new enterprise, transferring licensing and software agreements, and setting standards for a seamless integration process. Failures in integration can ruin the profitability of even the best deal, so setting a realistic roadmap is imperative.

CMO: Company Voice

Responsible for the creation, communication and delivery of the company’s voice, the CMO leads client interaction for the company.

As a company pursues M&A, it is the CMO’s responsibility to decide how the company will answer inevitable client questions about changes in mission, service, and priorities. Depending on the level of confidentiality maintained during the transaction, these questions can begin at any stage. The way these changes are communicated will spell the difference between a disgruntled client and one who is satisfied and maintains trust in your organization.

Board of Directors: Bird’s Eye View

As an outside body of elected or appointed members, the board oversees the activities of the company with a bit more detachment than the C-suite. They’re broadly involved in matters of policy, objectives, and annual budgeting, offering directives and performance reviews of company growth. Although less common in middle market companies, many organizations have found a board of directors increasingly beneficial to success.

The bird’s eye view of the board can provide relevant guidance during an M&A transaction. Members of the board have often had experience navigating the deal-making arena, so they’re able to provide specific advice on best practices and lessons learned. As outside observers, the board can better evaluate the performance of the C-suite as a whole, provide valuable guidance on effective leadership and communication during fast-paced deals.

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