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Speaking With References: 3 Tips from a GM

In this article, Greg Salzman, GM of Aleyant Systems offers his insight on speaking with references during the M&A process. In our earlier article, we covered the top questions to ask acquisition references.

Greg Salzman, GM of Aleyant Systems, on speaking with references

My company, Aleyant Systems, was acquired by Volaris Group in August 2018. Before signing the deal, I knew I wanted to speak to some references.

By speaking with references, I hoped to learn if they shared common motivations with me, and what to expect post-acquisition. I also wanted to get a feel for the level of openness and honesty I felt when speaking with them.

Soon after receiving my Initial Offer, I connected with Stephane Bourque, CEO of Incognito Software, and Vincent Kadar, CEO of Telepin, who kindly answered all my questions and more.

Based on my experience speaking with Stephane and Vincent, here are my tips for making the most of your reference calls.

3 tips for making the most of your reference calls

1. Get both the long-range and short-range perspective.

Incognito was acquired by Volaris back in 2014, and Telepin was acquired more recently, in 2017.

Speaking with the CEO of Telepin, Vincent Kadar, helped me understand what to expect in the days, weeks, and months following acquisition. Vincent was able to give me a lot of insight into the short-term effects of the acquisition. He told me what went smoothly, and of any challenges they encountered. Because it was fresh in his mind, I think he was able to really speak to his experience in detail.

For a longer-term view, I spoke with Stephane. He was able to explain how his customers and staff had been impacted, as well as how they’d been adapting to new metrics and benchmarks over time.

2. Find out their motivations.

Finding a safe and permanent home for Aleyant was the most important factor in my decision to sell the company. I wanted to know that the references I was speaking to had similar motivations and interests. Their feedback would only be applicable to me if we had similar visions for our companies. So I started off by asking “why did you choose to sell your company, and why did you choose Volaris?”

Within minutes into my calls with Stephane and Vincent, I understood that we both shared similarly strong loyalties to our staff and customers.

3. Pay attention to their level of transparency.

When you’re speaking with references about their acquisition, don’t be afraid to ask for details.

Stephane and Vincent gave me a really positive impression of Volaris, because I felt they were open and honest. When I asked for more color around a story, I didn’t feel any hesitation. They were forthcoming with details, and provided positive, but realistic reviews of their acquisition experiences.

Speaking to references is all about getting the “real story” right from the source. If a reference isn’t interested in providing details or can’t think of a single challenge related to the acquisition, I recommend you look for another reference.

Keep your eyes open, speak to references

Selling your company is a big decision, and you want to go into it with your “eyes open.”

It’s important to get long-range and short-range perspectives, speak with people you are ideologically aligned with, and assess transparency.

Speaking with references can help you confirm that the acquirer has a good record of sticking by their word. References can also help you gain a deeper understanding of how the acquisition, transition, and long-term view will play out.

For a list of key questions to ask acquisition references, visit this blog post.