The Big Idea with Ron Davis
The Art of the Surprisingly Easy Deal
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month's BIG IDEA comes from Andrew Robinson, Invision Technologies
Andrew Robinson, principal of Invision Technologies, says his company will seize acquisition opportunities but only if they fit with Invision’s well-defined market scope.
AST MONTH, I introduced you to Jill Oliver, entrepreneur extraordinaire. She started, built and then sold her company, SAFE Security, for exactly what she felt it was worth. Not a penny more, not a dollar less. However, this month’s column is not so much about Oliver as it is about the buyer, Invision Technologies, also headquartered in Albany, Ga. Like the first part of this acquisition tale the second is also a wonderful success story, centered on how quality relationships can build a quality company.
Invision Technologies is headed up by Andrew Robinson, CEO, along with partners Jay Pollock and Jay Carpenter. They are kind of a hybrid integrator, with a substantial book of RMR and a well-defined vision of who they are and where they are going. And where they are going is up, up, up … I think we’ll be hearing more about them in the future.
STICKING TO BUSINESS PLAN, TARGET MARKET
Sticking to Business Plan, Target Market After talking to Robinson over the phone several times, I felt that I needed to meet him in person. He was attending a convention in Fort Lauderdale, just a couple hours’ drive from where I was staying in Florida. I thought it would be worth my time to gauge with my eyes if he was as genuinely good in person as he was over the phone. We got together near the convention center, went to lunch and talked about the acquisition of SAFE Security, and his vision of the postacquisition future of that company.
First, a little bit about Invision Technologies. The firm has four operating divisions: IT networking, security, hosted telephone systems and services, and believe it or not, a division that does corporate design services. It will design websites, corporate literature, even business cards. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard about another company in the security industry as diverse as the one that Robinson leads. But as you peruse all that it has on its website (invtech.com), you sense a vision that management had of providing a package of services to the average small and midsize business, as well as homeowners throughout its market area.
And the company’s target market is as well defined as its business plan. The business plan calls for, primarily, organic growth. However, when an opportunity arises — such as the acquisition of Oliver’s company — the intention is to jump on it and make sure the acquisition is not lost to any other company that may be looking to gain a presence in their part of Georgia.
In fact, immediately after the closing of the SAFE Security deal, we received an inquiry from another company located only about 50 miles outside of Invision’s operating area. The owners were also looking to sell their company (my Davis Mergers and Acquisitions Group had assisted Oliver). I told Robinson about the inquiry, and the next day I received an email, which simply thanked us for thinking of him but noted their focus is going to be on their defined market, and they would not be looking at any other opportunities outside of that primary geography.
BOTH PARTIES CAN ADJUST & WALK AWAY SATISFIED
Another aspect about this particular transaction is I’ve never had one go quite as smoothly. Robinson was just as focused on what his company was doing as Oliver was in what her exit strategy was to look like. She told Robinson what she wanted, suggested that it was not negotiable, and if they were interested in pursuing it she’d be happy to talk to them.
Oliver called me, told me about the opportunity and suggested I call Robinson. I did; he had already received Oliver’s requests and was prepared to move forward. I made a couple of modest suggestions that I thought would improve the deal from both parties’ perspectives, and the next thing I knew we had a purchase agreement in place written exactly in accordance with everybody’s wishes. The result was a true win-win all around.
And herein lies the really great idea for the industry that resulted from both the buyer’s and seller’s actions. They had a well thought-out and defined goal in mind when they initially started talking about getting together. Neither one deviated from that mental frame. Both are extremely happy with the results they achieved; listened to suggestions and made adjustments to accommodate the other party; and understood the value of negotiating honestly and honorably.
How often can both parties walk away from a transaction entirely happy? Of course, it happens. And perhaps now you have a better understanding that sometimes getting a great transaction done can be surprisingly simple.
Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Group, a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates International in the 1980s.