Blog - July 2023

20 Things Learnt in 20 Years of M&A – Part 1

Insights by Peter Watson.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

(The more things change, the more they stay the same!)

Sitting with my business partner, Robert Fiske, we discussed what we have learnt over 20 years of deal making. Whilst the environment has changed (no completion meetings to celebrate, virtual not actual data rooms, and obviously much greater use of Zoom), much remains the same.

There is lots of talk about AI – and indeed it is driving M&A activity in many sectors – and inevitably it is being used now in some elements of the deal process too. Due diligence for sure will benefit, as will target identification, but the essence of deal making will, we suspect, remain in the human realm.

We have learnt loads over the past 20 years and are still learning more with every deal. We have collated ten of our top learnings related to the M&A process and next time we will address some others focussed around the owner.


1. No-one knows for sure what a business is worth, hence the need to go to the market.

2. Related to no 1, the ‘Myth of the Multiple’. Be very wary of relating published multiples from other deals to your business unless you really know the underlying details. Multiple of what we ask? Adjustments can be substantial.

3. Relationships matter at every stage – speak where possible.

4. A successful deal is built on trust – trust is hard to acquire and easily lost.

5. Perseverance pays! Give yourself time and stay focussed on the goal.

6. If a prospective buyer is aggressive when questioned about their finances, there is an issue!

7. KISS (the old adage, ‘keep it simple, stupid’) – e.g. simple structures allow you to more easily monitor business performance.

8. Every deal is different – the combination of numerous varying factors ensure that this is always the case.

9. Beware of deal momentum – once lost, it can be very hard to re-start.

10. The closer a team works together, the better the result. Don’t treat your advisors as silos – get them on calls together to solve problems.

See the second part of our list with the top 10 things we’ve learnt in relation to the owner-manager in our next blog: 20 Things Learnt in 20 Years of M&A – Part 2