At Marco, we have intentionally built a portfolio of diversified, yet related businesses that support the technology needs of the modern office. Over the past five years, we have strategically shifted to a technology services company to build resiliency into our business model. About half of our revenue growth has come organically, and the other half through acquisitions.
If there is one thing we have learned along the way, it’s that the easy part of an acquisition is probably writing the check. The more important and difficult part comes with the integration. It’s important that each of these individual businesses adopt our business processes and become part of our overall culture.
While we’re not going to deviate from our acquisition strategy this year, I am calling 2014 the year of integration. This is a top priority for us.
In the last 12 months, we have acquired seven companies. These have ranged from traditional copier and telecom businesses to new industry segments of cloud and carrier services. The new service offerings strategically fit well with our current portfolio and fortunately we can lean on the previous leadership to help develop an effective go-to-market strategy.
So, what does it take to integrate?
- Identify who’s driving the bus.
Integration begins with the leadership team. It’s essential to have the right people in the right positions heading in the right direction. That’s easier said than done and takes some strategic and even subtle moves. With our recent acquisitions, the successful entrepreneurs that started and grew the businesses are now part of our team. It’s not only important that Marco helps them understand the intricacies of a larger operation, but that we also understand their business and how they go-to-market. It’s critical that we have mutual respect and develop a collaborative relationship to achieve the desired outcome.
- Adapt your sales approach.
For decades, our core competency has been direct selling of products and value-added services. While this is still an important part of our business, customers are putting less value on the product itself and more emphasis on our ability to understand and support their objectives. The last two companies we bought didn’t provide any physical products. That’s a significant shift and changes the way we sell. We have begun to develop hybrid representatives that traditionally sold products and are now being trained to sell these new services. I’m not certain how this will play out, but I am certain we’ll have to continue to adapt our sales approach to support these types of shifts in our industry.
- Service is a team sport.
We used to grow by selling more products to our existing customers. Now, we’re earning the right to provide more professional services. This has required more specialized talent. We’ve become more diversified by developing teams of project managers, pre-sales engineers, programmers, client care representatives and more. This required an upfront investment that has paid dividends because clients see value in this team approach. If we do our jobs right, current and prospective clients not only have the confidence in our ability to sell and install products, but will also commit to a long-term service relationship with Marco after the sale.
- Not every service fits every market.
Integration doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to offer every solution in every market.Why is that? Every market is different with varying opportunities and challenges. For example, we aren’t currently offering integrated audio/video systems in Rapid City, South Dakota, or providing video surveillance in Iowa. Integration leads us to assess and prioritize resource allocation to determine which markets will deliver the best return on investment. We typically allow geography, the current sales force and our existing support resources to influence our initial paths.