Fresh off Memorial Day Weekend, I had to face the reality that summer is here! When the kids are out of school, the regular schedules that we have enjoyed throughout the year become replaced by a multitude of summer camps, travels, and family fun. But as we know, the work we’ve started over the spring doesn’t stop when good weather arrives.
June brings the annual BIO Convention and several productive investor conferences, which provide the last opportunities for business development outreach meetings before things settle down in July and August. Depending on the stage of the discussion, it may prove to be easier or harder to maintain momentum in a strategic transaction process during the summer doldrums. Earlier stage discussions, leading to evaluation, may slow to a halt if decision makers are not adequately bought-in to the opportunity going into this period. It is important to manage both top-down and bottom-up leading through the month of June to be positioned for the rest of the summer. Later stage discussions often get the benefit of priority. If term sheets have been exchanged, it is possible to complete contracting and diligence and close a strategic deal during the summer months. In general, I have found that the key is to be organized, communicate effectively both internally and externally, and be realistic about what can be accomplished during summertime.
Manage your team’s calendar
This may seem like a simple tip, but it is always surprising how complex scheduling becomes when you capture the respective calendars for your entire deal team. Often you will find there may be weeks at a time, or longer, where you will not be able to schedule a face to face meeting with your stakeholders due to the layers of summer travel and time off. As a discussion progresses from evaluation to terms and contracting, the needs for functional resources evolve, providing an additional layer of complexity during the process. I’ve learned the hard way, summertime is when you need to expect for extended periods of absence for team members, so the best plan is to be proactive and repeatedly ask your team what they are planning for the summer.
Communicate your objectives for the deal process
Now that you understand what your team can reasonably accomplish in the summer, it’s time to share that information with the prospective partners. If you represent a small organization and you are dealing with large ones, keep in mind that the rate limiting steps are likely to be external. Depending on where a partner is the process, how efficiently they engage, and their interest level, you may have another challenge with managing some partners from moving much faster than others. You need to design your process such that it keeps pressure on the first movers, but allows adequate time for slower organizations to stay in the process.
Remember, if there is not adequate time to evaluate the opportunity and manage decision making, some parties may decline to participate in the process at the outset. When moving forward with term sheet discussions, it is always a good practice to develop a timeline with the partner that includes reaching final terms, timing for contract drafts, and a target close. This helps everyone around the table to navigate the process.
Understand the needs of your partner
The buy-side process, particularly for larger companies, involves an established process of evaluation, assessment, and decision making. Ask your partner about the steps for evaluation and the process for stakeholder building. As the dialog progresses, it is appropriate to request information on the decision-making process, including committee meetings and schedules. During the summer months, these sessions require quorum and can often get canceled or rendered moot by a lack of decision makers in attendance. Make sure you work with your counterparts to have reasonable expectations of what their organizations can accomplish during this time.
Always remember to lead the process
Now that you’ve laid the foundation for the work to be done during the summer months, the final step is to make sure the work actually gets done. Regularly inquire about questions and issues. Leading the process requires that you provide materials as soon as they are requested, and, ideally, maintaining one step ahead of the requests. You should regularly and informally ask, “How can I help you to prepare the team? Are there any secondary materials that we can synthesize that will be useful? What can we put together for the meetings you have coming up?” The last thing you want to hear is that the opportunity wasn’t ready for a meeting, and the next once doesn’t occur for 6-8 weeks, so be proactive about offering your help through the summer.
If you have any questions about your process and would like to discuss best practices or other ways Locust Walk could assist in maximizing your success, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Locust Walk will be attending the BIO Annual Convention in San Diego from June 18-22. Please let us know if you would like to meet.
Written by Michael McCully