An Interview with M&A Source Member, Chuck Harvey
Tell us about your pre-M&A career and how it led you to do this work?
From the beginning, my work had a heavy dose of M&A and securities work. During 10 years at Coopers & Lybrand, I had leadership roles in numerous IPO’s and acquisitions, including the Hicks & Haas acquisition of 7UP and a $1.8B CMO offering of government backed loans. That continued at PepsiCo. I was the CFO for Schlotzsky’s IPO and then lead a series of SMB’s through M&A on five continents. Through these 45 years, I learned that I love working with owners who have built businesses and I love deal making.
What personal characteristics and strengths have supported your success in this industry?
My father taught me respect, patience and tenacity. I try to respect the needs of everyone in a transaction. In doing so, it helps me find the common ground for compromise. As we all know, deals take on a life of their own. If I am patient enough to allow the deal to flow its natural path, things tend to turn out more successfully. However, I never give up and I continue to tenaciously work a deal to its end, even in its darkest hour.
What is your greatest M&A accomplishment?
I was the CFO of a VC backed software company that was not going to be able to overcome three huge competitors. Despite never working in Japan before, I spent three years convincing a $5B Japanese supplier that they needed us as a direct pipeline to the U.S. market. We completed a $40M deal and, 10 years later, those employees, who were on the verge unemployment, are winning “employee of the year” awards with the Japanese conglomerate.
Regarding most of your engagements, do you work as a team or handle things on your own?
We work as a team. Our Dealmakers lead the engagements and are supported by marketing and operations. Our leadership gets hands-on in deals, if needed.
Do you just do M&A, or do you provide other services – valuations, consulting, etc.?
We are deal makers. While we have added valuation services to our offering, we do not perform consulting.
What is the biggest mistake you have made when working on a deal?
It still haunts me. I had recently stepped into the CFO role of a venture backed software/hardware company. One of the founders and board members had convinced the rest of the founders to start a services subsidiary, which he personally ran. It was hemorrhaging money. I worked closely with that founder to bring the subsidiary to profitability. After doing so, the other founders and the investors instructed me to sell it. That was the right thing to do. They also ordered me to not tell the one founder, who was running the subsidiary, because he would torpedo any deal. I put the deal together. The investors announced at the next BOD meeting that I had sold the subsidiary. That founder has never spoken to me again.
What are the three most important qualities that you think a good M&A advisor needs to have?
Integrity, Bravery and Humility
What is your most interesting deal that you are working on today?
There are several. To pick just one, we are pulling a public energy services company into a deal with one of our technology enabled services clients. It has taken a while to bring this together, but the public company has just made a few acquisitions that require our client’s technology to succeed. We saw this early on and developed that story for our buyer.
How long have you been an M&A Source member and what do you get out of your membership?
Seven years. The group of people who make up M&A Source inspire me. I have made several cherished friendships. The tools and the education the organization provides are valuable, but nothing surpasses the experience of standing with others who are striving for excellence.
As a seasoned M&A advisor, what changes and trends do you see on the horizon that will impact on M&A?
This profession has been around centuries. Economic trends will come and go. Technological changes will impact how we work. Generational transitions will require us to interact differently. In the end though, this is a people business. However, we do it, we will always need to find fertile ground where buyers and sellers can come together for a deal.
What advice would you give to new people entering the profession?
No matter how much experience you bring into the profession, find a mentor, seek out training and engage as many peers as you can.
Please tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with your M&A career?
I am a fifth generation Texan who was the first person in my paternal family to ever graduate from college.