This is the first session of four sessions in the Spring 2022 M&A Sprint. Led by Cynthia Del Pozo, Principal of Strategy and Corporate Development at Gemini, and Marshall Beard, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Gemini.
Note: below are edited notes and rough takeaways from this event. Please refer to the video for more details and for more accurate information.
How their CoS work helped them to where they are today:
Marshall: I was an analyst out a college for a few years. I went to Business School, then I did M&A advisory at PWC. From there, I was recruited to be the Chief of Staff at a large media company. I didn't know what a chief of staff was at the time. I googled it. I found Scott Amenta. I emailed him. He said, “Hey, I'm having a monthly meet up tomorrow. Come meet us.” I met with him. There was like seven of us. We would once a month host pizza parties at each other's offices and talk about Chief of Staff scaling startups.
Cynthia: I started out my career at Ernst and Young and was there for almost a decade. I started on the finance side and then moved to their consulting practices mostly focusing on financial services. And while I was at E&Y, I pursued my MBA. In which, I met an actual member of the Chief of Staff Network and the prior Chief of Staff at Gemini. I was talking to her about the Chief of Staff role. I’d actually never heard of it before I went to Columbia. And it just sounded so exciting… That sounds like a great role and transition role from Ernst and Young into whatever it is that I decide to do next.
On the CoS role:
Cynthia: [it includes] all of these different aspects of running a business, but also all of these different aspects on how to work with people: that are just as if not even more important than a lot of the hard skill factors.
I focused on the corporate development side of the house at TheSkimm because we didn't have a corporate development team.
The Strategy team at Gemini: The strategy team at Gemini is a small team. There's seven of us; have this huge breadth of work. Everyone kind of has a vertical.
How M&A is a part of Strategy at Gemini:
M&A is one of the pillars that we focus into, that we focus on in our strategy team…Many companies see M&A as a strategy, and are like ‘let's be strategic and acquire a company.’
M&A is essentially a tool that helps us facilitate and accomplish the strategy that we've set at the high level, it is not a strategy in itself…. M&A is not a magic bullet.
We see M&A as two different categories: strategic purpose, or for economic purpose.
M&A doesn't solve your problems, it could theoretically solve specific strategy problems
The reasons a company may use M&A as a way to grow:
-product or infrastructure capabilities
M&A Lessons learned:
Marshall: we've been quite successful with our M&A. And I think a lot of that is luck - we acquired good companies.
[When acquiring companies] really dial in and get very honest and transparent with the principal of the target on what their role is going to be. Make sure that they are aligned. Make sure that internally you're aligned.
Why anyone at a company can help with an M&A deal:
Marshall: Even if you haven't done a deal, you can do a deal. If it's smaller company, it's easier. It's very much more an art than a science. As long as you have conviction on the target [company], build that relationship, get the conversation going, imply your intentions and see if it makes sense.
The importance of maintaining company values through M&A
Cynthia: there is kind of an underlying theme throughout all of this, which is the importance of values. And especially when you're going through acqui-hires, the culture that you're seeing in the company that you're acquiring actually has a lot more weight than a lot of these more academic focused concepts that we talked about [today]…. We definitely think like that's not something that we should ever overlook, and that we should definitely focus on the relationship culture that we're bringing into into business for sure.