I began learning about mergers and acquisitions when I merged with a client and closed down my company in 2012.
At first, I worked with the founder of the new company I merged with to build out the culture, services, and leadership structure. After that, it was a knowledge-transfer while I worked as an employee.
I now see that I can do the same thing (create value), and sell it to another company (acquisition) without shutting down my operations. Perhaps I can even accomplish such a thing by packaging the entire venture in a way that can be swallowed like a pill.
I wondered, “If my ability to thread my purpose into the way I create value is the attractive quality to an acquirer, then I will simply figure out how to excavate myself and package the value proposition in a way that can be easily acquired and integrated into the acquiring company. The Podcast Venture is a simple use case that illustrates that it is possible to package a venture into a swallowable pill which enables the acquirer to seamlessly integrate the new value into the way they currently operate.
The intention of this article is to explore how and why the future of work is driven by creators who have autonomy and are authentically expressing themselves into products that are easy pills for incumbents to swallow and course-correct before it’s too late.
Table of Contents
- M&A Strip Mining
- Finding another way
- Knowledge Dump
- Competitive Advantage
- Pain Killer
- Lifelong Learning
- 5th Dimension of Inception
M&A Strip Mining
From the story I shared above, and from the stories I have heard from friends with exits, is that the acquiring company strip-mines their startup for the resources it needs. Similar to the way we strip-mined the earth for the resources we need.
In my experience working on myself, and working with CEOs, deans, mayors, and leaders across the country, I can say, at least about myself, that I do not always know what I need. It is sometimes only through the lens of others do I have an opportunity to see that which I have not yet seen. The more I operate from a place of doing without giving myself time and space to notice all there is to see, the more I sabotage myself and prevent myself from evolving.
When I act from a place of “I know what I need, and I do not need anyone to tell me otherwise.” It means that I am now creating a product from my ego – it’s me taking actions that are built upon assumptions. This practice was helpful for me at the start of my career – in 2009 – because I was still getting acquainted with the tools and getting on a path of refining my craft.
One of the requirements for innovation to flourish within a company is receptivity. Especially by the leadership. The innovators are the linchpins and companies need to have capabilities or pathways to building capabilities for comprehending what to do and how to be when it comes to managing innovation.
The deals I am referring to are those that produce clear short-term gains from the acquisition. Meanwhile, it’s like everyone is down at a waterfall playing in the water because they don’t realize there is poison coming from upstream and into the same water they’re rubbing all over themselves.
I watch company after company explore what it means to innovate by investing $25k up to millions into “buying” and “doing” as they try to turnaround, “change”, and gain an edge. It seems to be an economy built upon the doings, perhaps. I see CEOs spend money simply because it’s associated with success.
I have been hired to create new products and product lines in private (without the customer) over the course of months and months. Whether the market will adopt the new feature or new product is unknown. It’s like placing one quite large bet with one chance of a return – similar to flipping a coin 1:1.
The existing mergers and acquisition timeline is typically one that can take a few months to years. This is not an implication that incumbents will suddenly shift their practices. It is my contention that an alternative pathway is present.
Another source of issues in new deals and when existing companies make decisions to work with a provider or build a product, there is not transparent access to information on both sides. This means there is an inability to gain full situational awareness which, for me, is a prerequisite for building trust. This is similar to a cancer that can, eventually, metastatize into self-sabotage.
By 2014, I had too much evidence to prove that the current way was not the way that was going to be the way for very much longer. It is not because I was going to “change the system” or do anything. I simply could see that which I was blind to. This is when it became like Plato’s “Allegory of the cave”. I had seen behind the curtain and I couldn’t unsee anymore.
My current position on existential risk is that we, the people, are, perhaps, facing extinction. When I speak into this topic from the view of the collective, it seems that our collective behavior is producing institutional failure. When I speak into this topic on a micro level, it seems that I am a person who participates in a way of life that may result in my extinction.
In my experience, one of the reasons I struggle, as a member of the human race, is because I am navigating the transition away from survival of the fittest, to survival of the most cooperative.
That means letting go of the lifestyle, culture, and planet I was born with to create space for something new to emerge.
Finding another way.
It is my contention that the fundamental principles governing the way I participate in the free market are ill-equipped to serve my evolving needs. To continue participating in the same way of life is to perpetuate the existence of challenges which may prevent my existence.
From 2009 to 2012 was the period of time when I went from college dropout to college graduate who teaches university classes and brought his first company to an exit. I must have done something right.
On October 11th, 2014 I sat down and began writing. For 23 days in a row, I sat in my chair at my desk and I wrote. For approximately 12 hours per day, I wrote about my life, what I was learning, and what I could see emerging in the future. After about 100,000 words, the phases of a methodology popped-off the page and looked me right in the eye.
Here’s the outline I made at the end of 23 days.
Here is the initial sketch of the methodology I extracted from my working life between August 2009 and August 2012.
It went through a few iterations since then. Tere are currently four phases and I call them the Four Movements.
Initially, I tried to create a new company for each movement so that people could bring themselves through the specific experience of humanity, and, when it felt right, they could decide to bring themselves into the next company which was built upon the next movement. I worked through several iterations of this strategy as I traveled from city to city to learn from the others as I brought what I was learning from the journey.
To learn more about the story behind the story, visit this article where I share more about my personal journey.
I realized that I began to grow into the flower I am today because in 2009 I was invited into a new type of garden. An organic learninge environment that acted as my preincubation pipeline into the world.
The architect of my learning environment new that in order to grow new flowers – produce new outcomes – we, the people, need to plant new gardens. This is about context. Create the new context (garden) first…
Then decide what goes in the soil and which elements (assets: people, places, things) might support an individual as they embark on the lifelong learning journey into the unknown.
A flower with no gardener (caretaker) may grow resilient in the wild, but the lifespan of a rogue organism can be short and painful.
This speaks into the importance of knowing who is taking care of my garden, who I invite into my garden, and being intentional with how I protect and care for my garden. This devotional life I speak to you about is sacred. Birthing these types of ventures into the world is no different from birthing a child.
I noticed that when I spent more time in the “being”, I began to see things I needed to see in order to have the insight into the next steps.
This is where I came up with the idea of the Prethinc Paradigm.
Prethinc is what you do, before you do. This is meant to represent a new way of being in our working lives. It also became the foundation for a digital suite of products built upon the archetypes that represent the behavior patterns of growing a venture that makes an impact.
This resulted in the six archetypes which represent the behavioral patterns I tend to embody as I moved through the Four Movements: The Self, The Storyteller, The Listener, The Gatherer, The Creator, and The Manager.
Another way of looking at it is from the micro to macro perspective.
It is about creating space to be with more of myself.
I am learning that the relationship a human has with itself is sacred. The way I interact with my reality is sacred. This sacred entity, the human being, myself, can be shared with more people in meaningful ways by transmuting its essence, higher truth, into accessible experiences that create space dedicated to supporting humanity through a transition that is already happening whether one is conscious of it yet.
In extended periods of alone time, I learn to strengthen my ability to notice my intuition. Knowing it is there means I get to choose to lead from it. The knowing that which comes from within is the voice of truth. A higher truth, perhaps. It is from this truth can I speak from the highest wisdom of which I currently have access.
To arrive at a place where I can hear and feel the flicker of a flame from deep within my soul. This intuitive light provides direction. Like a compass that guides me into the unknown. Once I am on the path, it means I am taking steps in my life. Once a few steps have been taken, I can use reflection to identify the dots of my history. In doing so, I can see how the dots connect. Steve Jobs said, “We can only connect the dots looking backwards.”
I compare this process similar to that of breadcrumbs. I take a step, pickup the breadcrumb, and eat it. Look around. Notice the different breadcrumbs that surround me and make a decision as to which one I will take a step towards next. When it feels right, take the next step, pickup that breadcrumb, and keep going. One at a time. Step by step.
I am learning that many of the critical skills I acquired were not simply how to make things that help people. There were also skills that were “soft”. Or, as Mr. Rogers said, “The most important things we need to learn are invisible.” It was about the person I was becoming. A person learning how to ground himself in things like love, compassion, and empathy.
I find that when I am in this “heart space”, it influences my behavior. It influences the way I show up in the world. It influences the ideas I come up with. This speaks into the importance of designing a learning environment, or, ecosystem, for myself which is comprised of the essential ingredients that I know, from trial and error, enable my personal transformation in a specific way.
The invisible skills I mention above are not available transactionally. They are acquired – they are built overtime – as a result of immersing myself in experiences that result in some type of personal transformation. That means, the ability to thread my purpose into the way I create value is, in fact, the value that is desired by the acquiring company. Whether they know this yet, or not, this is going to have a profound impact on the way the new economy unfolds. Especially because it creates a defensive moat around the creator who would typically lose their autonomy in these deals. When enough creators get behind this transition, it can begin to put power back into the hearts, minds, and souls of the people.
Then I wondered, “How can I package a venture in a way that: helps unlock the underutilized potential from within the acquiring company?; changes the lives of those people?; and, it can be swallowed like a pill?”
Sure, I would need to include training and support with the acquisition. I consider those types of services “vitamins” that the acquiring company takes everyday. This provides infrastructure for the people to embrace a working life that encourages them to become the highest and most truthful expression of themselves. Why is that important for work?
I want you to imagine that you run a company that has a support team. I am a customer. When I call your support team, am I communicating with a person who feels loved, supported, and encouraged to make mistakes and do what it takes to make my life better? Or, am I communicating with someone who isn’t really sure where they stand or whether they are working for a company that has their best interest in mind?
Simon Sinek says, “People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” When I start from purpose it can have a magnetic effect that attracts and unifies people around who I am and what I believe.
Fifth Dimension of Inception
When I create space to start this journey from within it creates the conditions that influence the inception of a specific type of idea that leads to solving a specific type of solution to solve a specific type of problem for a specific type of person which attracts a specific person to be on a specific team which leads to a specific type of venture which, by its inherent nature, produces a specific type of impact from within the receptive communities for which it serves.
The intention of this article is to untangle some of the more complex issues associated with playing the game of today’s economy as it relates to equity. I will continue to refine this article and include videos, images, and links overtime. For any questions, please reach out.