Mark is a founder and Senior Partner at GRAPH. Mark has been working in the professional services sector since 1990 and has been providing strategy guidance for leading corporations and private equity clients and portfolio companies for 17 years. READ MORE
Diligence Trappings of Lawn Sign Decisions
Regardless of where any of us stand on a political spectrum, there is a superbly valuable due diligence lesson for investment teams that derives from the behavioral sciences of psychology and politics. There is a dangerous trap that we refer to as the lawn sign decision.
Using Diligence and the Ownership Change to Leverage What Matters to Customers
Conducting commercial diligence that matters should equip the new owner and the leadership team with insights that can quickly make an impact on market share and pricing opportunities (among other opportunities).
Price Sensitivity and the Opportunity to Improve Margins
Most commercial diligence projects will query the channel and the end-customers to measure price sensitivity. Most CIMs will have a graph indicating the degree to which customers are, or are not, sensitive to price – and suggesting room for margin enhancement. However, relying on customers’ or the channel’s expression or “vote” on price sensitivity can lead to false commercial diligence…
Uncovering a Platform Play
The common case: The target asset (i.e., the target company) has a demonstrated track record of running a good business, enjoys healthy margins and some nice growth. The research indicates that drivers of demand are strong and sustainable. But the diligence also surfaces the fact that none of the providers, including the target company, have a materially differentiated solution – and the market…
Fruit that’s Ripe for Non-traditional Disruption (and how to diligence the prospect of it)
The Amazon Whole Foods tie-up is certainly throwing more than a couple of mature industries for a loop: food production, logistics and distribution, mass-retail and groceries. Since the announcement (and as of today), Costco lost 17% of its value; Kroger is down 30%; Sprouts is down 24%; Wal-Mart took a hit but seems to be holding its own.
Indefensible (Competitive Position)
I’m am fairly certain that just about every commercial diligence assignment conducted is going to include measurement of the asset's commercial strength relative to customer needs and expectations, and relative to perceptions of competitors and alternatives.
Strength of Demand vs. Strength of Brand
What is more important when looking at a deal: the strength of demand drivers, or the strength of the target company's brand equity? With rare exception, Demand – not Choice (brand equity among suppliers) – is more fundamental to a successful acquisition outcome.
When Things aren’t Quite what they Seem - Distressing Commercial Due Diligence Close-calls
I thought I’d share some instructive discoveries we’ve had in commercial due diligence recently. I’m curious to hear yours. If you’re inspired, send me a quick reply with a couple of diligence events that surprised you (and that you hopefully caught). Here are a few from the past year:
A Quick Follow-up on Market Definitions
In an earlier GRAPH Paper™, my partner James referenced how important it is to accurately define the market when it comes to market sizing requirements. Per that GRAPH Paper, “Having clear definitions that everyone on the deal team is aligned on is essential.” Beyond supporting market sizing, being clear on the market definition helps the team better understand the target asset itself, and…
Sizing Up Bad Market Definitions
Reflecting on 20 years of investing, one investment professional recently remarked to us, “When I think about what we’ve gotten wrong in the past, the worst times have been when we believed we had a bigger market size than we really did. There’s just nothing you can do...the company just runs out of room for growth.”