My first grown-up job out of the Army was to work as a researcher for a mergers & acquisitions (M&A) consulting firm based in McLean (home to the CIA), Virginia. Our clients were large New York and American Stock Exchange, publicly-listed companies bent on growing their earnings bases by acquiring other companies. My job was to identify every business, usually in the USA, that fit the ideal prospect profile—usually $10-20 million in sales with strong profitability and growth prospects—call their presidents, and ask them all sorts of nosey questions about their financials on behalf of a client I couldn’t name. After a while, I actually got good at this. My work product was a “one-page report” that usually went to 4-6 pages and provided basic info that our “closer” could take to the client and try to arrange a “first meeting.” Our compensation consisted almost entirely of closing bonuses we recevied when a deal we started actually happened. My pay consisted of a monthly check for about $350 plus these bonuses. In four-and-a-half years I got two, totally about $15,000. I was rich.
NOTE: $10-20 million in sales equates to maybe ten times that now. My tools were a telephone, a yellow pad and pen, and the Dunn & Bradstreet directories, and I spent abot 40 hours a week dialing for dollars. I would turn over my draft reports to a typist, and off we went toward a first meeting.
These days, I take special interest in news about anticipated and actual mergers and acquisition such as the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. These cause me no particular concern, in contrast to many commentators who seem to see it as their mission to right the wrongs of business concentration and the formation of behemoth companies bent on taking over their markets. Wouldn’t any business owner do just the same given the chance?