How to Tap the Art and Science of a Successful GovCon M&A

Scott Goss, President and CEO of Preferred Systems Solutions

Scott Goss, president and CEO of Preferred Systems Solutions

There’s no shortage of merger and acquisition GovCon events in and around D.C. But good ones are a bit harder to come by.

This week, there was a good one, featuring several industry heavyweights who hit the mark on both the art and the science of a successful deal. USI and Aronson hosted “The M&A Process—What to Expect When You Begin,” a panel discussion moderated by Jeffrey Verity, vice president of USI’s GovCon practice.

Value of Patience for the Right Deal

“Patience is a virtue required by both the buyer and the seller,” advises Scott Goss, president and CEO of Preferred Systems Solutions, Inc. Goss should know. He’s been on both sides of M&A deals. It typically requires even more patience to execute what experts call a transformational deal. That is, it’s part of a long-term strategy and achieves many, diverse objectives for the acquirer. It’s not just a tactical bolt-on.

Importance of Timing

Combining two companies isn’t simply an exercise in blending complementary assets. The merger needs to make sense for the market today and into the foreseeable future. ECS Federal Chief Financial Officer Tom Weston pointed out the “change in administrations delayed some deals because buyers were assessing what impact the new administration would have on agency customers of the acquisition target, especially if they supported certain civilian customers.”

Talent Matters

Having worked with dozens of government contractors going through M&A transactions over the years, here was my big takeaway: an increased effort to save the talent. Normally, leaders mention talent and management team retention, but hasn’t always been a top priority. Today’s panel emphasized it’s now more important than ever to the long-term success of the deal.

In fact, in many cases, acquirers want to integrate the CEO and leadership team into their organizations. Employees feel more loyal when they see their executives playing a significant role in the new entity, so retaining key leadership supports employee retention as well.

Now an M&A consultant, former CFO of Constellis Doug Lee stated: “Buyers are purchasing three main things: customers, capabilities and talent.” To retain key employees, Rich Sawchak, CFO of Novetta Solutions, stressed: “Buyers and sellers should start working on their communications plan on day one of the deal. It can’t be an afterthought.”

What’s in a Name?

One topic rarely covered in these panels is what to do with the name and brand of the company and products you just purchased.

There’s no rule that fits every acquisition. Company names and brands are assets in the deal, deserving rigorous and diligent evaluation to inform a solid business decision about how (or whether) to use them. It can’t be an emotional choice.

Buyers need to consider the strength of the acquired brand. A strong brand could be hyphenated or co-branded using both logos. Consider the company and product brands separately. Sawchak points out he typically retains brand names when acquiring software products.

So, when do you know it’s time to change a name? Sawchak closes with this advice, “Don’t push the change, pull it, with a customer-centric focus and employee training and development.”

About the Author

Joyce Bosc is president and CEO of the public relations firm, Boscobel Marketing Communications. Boscobel was the first digital marketing and public relations firm to specialize in the federal market and one of only a few to offer M&A communications plans and services. Learn more at and download the “Stakeholder Communications in an M&A Environment” white paper.

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  1. Joyce,
    I certainly agree about the importance of retaining top talent. Far too often, managers of the acquiring company end up competing for roles with the managers from the company being acquired. The net result is that many of the managers from the acquired company will end up being displaced and they will move on to find jobs elsewhere. The net result can be a significant loss of talent. A good communication plan can go a long way to prevent this talent loss.

  2. Bob, Yes, it’s a huge loss to watch great talent (and company intelligence) walk out the door due to an acquisition. The best of all words, is when a leader is as passionate about the people as they are about the deal. They follow a Comms Plan that includes sharing great news on execs and managers that are being integrated into positions at the new company. I’ve seen that done really well a few times in this market. Thanks for sharing, Bob!