I was head of Mergers and Acquisitions of Integrated Health Services, a public company, in the post-acute space. The two founders were true entrepreneurs and visionaries. They were also my mentors, although I’m not sure they saw it that way. I was hired to do a job. They did not see their role as mentors because they had a job to do too, and were held accountable for those outcomes, and developing talent was not part of the equation. We were all results-driven and evaluated ultimately by our scorecard. Also, my colleagues were bright and talented, albeit passionately competitive with one another, which is a nice way of saying it was a do or die cutthroat environment.
In M&A, I was in charge of negotiating deals. Typically, deal negotiations extended over several days, if lucky, or weeks, as was more customary. One deal negotiation took a full year to complete. During the process, I would have to consult with the IHS’s CEO and Cofounder, the late Bob Elkins, who was highly intelligent, a physician by trade, and clever but exceptionally demanding. I would meet Bob in his office to review the status of the negotiations and discuss and weigh the pro and cons of the deal points for particular transactions. I would have to share the positives, wins, concessions, and price increases that we would have to consent to make the deal. Bob would chastise, reprimand, and berate me for every compromise or accommodation I acknowledged. A cascade of insults would usually fly from his mouth: “Mark, you’ve given in too much, you’re getting outfoxed, you got tire tracks on your face, they are making a mockery of you. Now, go back and get a better deal.” Meeting over!
I would rise from my seat and walk toward the door, head down, discouraged and disappointed. Just before I reached the door, Bob would always continue, as if there was no break in the conversation, in inimitable Columbo-like fashion: “Mark, All that being said, CLOSE THE DEAL, DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET THE DEAL DONE. GOOD-BYE.”
Moral of the Story: When a high-powered corporate M&A guy has to close a deal, get out of his way and let him overpay.