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Reader’s Review, June-July 2013

By John D. Baker

Successful Acquisitions: A Proven Plan for Strategic Growth

By David Braun
256pp. New York: AMACOM, 2013
Hardback (USA) $29.95

David Braun is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Capstone Strategic, Inc., located in McLean, Virginia just outside the U.S. capital city. His consulting firm has specialized in strategic acquisitions since 1995. Mr. Braun’s clients have ranged from small firms through Fortune 500 and multi-national corporations. In the approximately 20 years of his work on acquisitions, Mr. Braun estimates he has participated in acquisition transactions that total in excess of 1 Billion dollars in value.

David Braun is a frequent business speaker and the author of many articles on strategic acquisitions. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from The College of William and Mary. Unquestionably, David Braun is an established expert in the field of acquisitions.

In his introduction to this book, Mr. Braun tells his reader precisely what his book is designed to do for them. It is, he writes, intended as “a complete roadmap to successful expansion through acquiring other companies” (p. 4). Additionally, he explains, there is a great need for such a work because “…the field in radically misunderstood” (p. 5) and the consequences of this ignorance by those seeking to operate in the acquisitions arena is so severe as to produce a 77% failure rate by its practitioners. The cause of this failure, Braun insists, is clear. It is the ignorance of the players.

This book, then, is intended as a needed solution to the acquisitions problem. It is, Mr. Braun tells us quickly, “a user’s manual for buying companies” (p. 14). Its author characterizes it as “a highly structured and disciplined approach to acquisition” (p.12). And so it is in both design and product.

Braun has produced a structured approach to acquisitions which positions it as a strategic move for growth and then tracks its process.

This work is a welcome addition to a field often populated with novice players, unfocused leaders and unclear goals. Importantly also, Braun has made a strong case for the vital role of knowledgeable third-party advisors as part of the process.

I am convinced that you will find this work an extraordinary primer for both the essential underlying strategic planning driver required and the acquisition process itself. If how-to is your need, you have found it in a step-by-step methodology buttressed by the author’s wide experience, a wealth of illustrative examples and his unwavering laser-like focus on a singular strategic goal. It is solid and thorough direction you can put to use immediately.

Most importantly for this reviewer and the reader, this book has the ring tone of fact. Much of it simply squares with this reviewer’s experiences over many years. It is a most welcome finding for any reviewer.

So let us look at some of the topics you will encounter in this surprisingly small volume.

David Braun examines the importance of beginning every acquisition effort by thoroughly analyzing your own company as the launch platform for any acquisition effort. In this endeavor as in all those exercises that follow, we learn the rationale, the definition of the task and one or more proven methods to accomplish the strategic goal of growth and the decision to use acquisition as the vehicle. The how-to process evolves in a similar manner from that first definition through precisely explained steps to the completion of the acquisition itself. Let us look at some of the stages in the outline.

You will find guidance and step-by step procedures for such elements as assessing your needs; selecting options that may produce growth; considering alternate paths to growth (for, examples, strategic alliances, joint ventures and others as well as acquisitions), setting up an acquisitions team … It is a complete view of Braun’s model process, even leading you through target criteria, first contacts, due diligence activities, letters of intent and implementation plans.

As a note, Braun is an intensive enumerator and if you are a fan of this method you will be delighted. This reviewer is not such a fan and found Braun’s penchant for counting methods a most annoying habit. For examples, you will find enumerative lists ranging from 5 options for growth through 9 paths to external growth to 10 reasons to acquire companies, etc, etc.

Never-the-less, I would count this book as one of the fundamental ones you should put on your reference bookshelf.

Highly Recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine  June-July 2013 Copyright © 2013 The Negotiator Magazine