Going through a professional M&A process can be exhausting, but it’s worth it
Andreas Ulrich, CTO and Co-founder of Planfocus GmbH recalled his experience going through an M&A process as exhausting. But he also quickly pointed out that it was a positive experience because he said, “You really, really learned a lot." Planfocus is a Munich Germany-based provider of cash optimization software solutions for financial institutions and the retail market. Their solutions help financial institutions and consumer businesses worldwide optimize their cash-related processes, leading to tangible cost savings and service efficiencies.
Going through a professional, detailed tech M&A process such as Corum's eight-stage process can be time consuming. But that investment of time has a proven track record of achieving an optimal outcome for clients seeking an M&A. Ulrich and his co-founder Joachim Walser had always planned on exiting their company at the appropriate time. In fact, that was in their mind as early as 2004 when they founded Planfocus. By 2019, the partners felt the time was right to in Ulrich’s words, "Extend our opportunities with a company." So they approached Corum to help them achieve a successful exit. Ultimately, that relationship resulted in an acquisition of Planfocus by Sesami Cash Management Technologies, a global cash ecosystem integrator and technology company.
However, the path to that successful outcome was more time consuming than Ulrich expected. First, there was the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic. Ulrich recalled that due to COVID-related travel restrictions he and his partner had to do many interviews with potential acquirers through Zoom or Microsoft Teams. And they had to prepare more thoroughly than they would otherwise have to sitting face to face with a potential buyer.
Then there was a span of time spent with a potential buyer that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Ulrich remembers the potential buyer as initially being very interested. In fact, the buyer did propose a purchase price. But once that happened, things went quiet. Ulrich says, "Nothing happened for weeks until we found out they were in an economic crisis and not able to acquire a company. But they didn't tell us." Eventually, Ulrich and his partner got tired of waiting and decided to go forward with other potential suitors.
Ulrich notes that time was also lost due to lack of preparation. His advice for CEO's considering an M&A: "Have your documents ready and keep up with your accounting. Make sure you have the documentation about your employees, all the investments you make, and a list of all the assets of the company." He admitted that it would have helped if he and his partner had all the needed material up to date. "Unfortunately," he says, "We were always lagging behind a little bit." Ulrich mentioned that Planfocus typically updated their documentation when it was needed for tax declarations. But updating the information more frequently, such as monthly or quarterly, would have speeded up the M&A process for them. Ulrich remembers ruefully, "We really had to work 12 -to 14 hours a day to get the stuff up to date."
After the acquisition Ulrich still maintains his position as Managing Director of Planfocus. Although things are a bit different now that he's an employee of Sesami. "The interesting thing, he says, “I'm an employee for the first time in my life. I was always a freelancer or entrepreneur. Now there is a parent company that is paying for us and they decide what we do economically as well as technically. That's kind of a change, but it's not a large impact, I would say."
But the entrepreneurial spirit still remains. Ulrich admits, "I'm constantly thinking that now I could actually quit and enjoy my life. But the question is whether I would quit this engagement in the current company and start something completely new, having the funding for that already on my own. And that's the thing that is circling my mind currently. I'm looking forward to what happens, but it really feels good to be safe on the financial side. That's a really good feeling, I have to say."