IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

A View of Both Sides of an MSP Acquisition

The founder and CEO of MXOtech (now an Ntiva company) and an Ntiva VP provide an insider’s look at the M&A process that brought them together. By Carolyn Heinze
Reader ROI: 
MOST MERGERS AND ACQUISTIONS don’t happen overnight and can take months or years as the MSP buyer and seller negotiate.
DUE DILIGENCE includes checking for healthy books, satisfied customers and employees, and a cultural fit.
WHILE VALUATIONS are lower now, owners can improve their business with new clients and services until the time is right to sell.

This article is based on the ChannelPro webinar, “Selling Your Business: A View From Both Sides.”

MOST MERGERS and acquisitions don’t happen overnight. When Ntiva, a managed IT and security services firm headquartered in McLean, Va., announced its acquisition of MXOtech, an MSP based in Chicago last fall, it was the culmination of a discussion that started over three years ago. The lead-up to the M&A announcement––the actual process of negotiating, conducting due diligence, and ironing out the details––lasted about nine months.

Here is an inside look at how each organization approached the process and prepared for a successful deal.

The Business Profile

Founded in 2005 by CEO Joanna Mirov, MXOtech offered IT services and support, as well as digital transformation services. Thanks to its knowledgeable team of application development specialists, these latter offerings included custom-built web and mobile applications, system integrations, and solutions that enabled clients to manage and access critical business information. Over the years, the company earned a reputation for its near 100% customer retention rate and low employee turnover.

Joanna Mirov

These were among the reasons that attracted Ntiva, with approximately 500 employees, to MXOtech. In the announcement, Ntiva CEO Steven Freidkin noted that MXOtech’s high level of customer service, in combination with its focus on digital transformation, made for a winning acquisition. It also allowed Ntiva to expand its presence in the Midwest.

Relationships Matter

Just like personal relationships, a successful business relationship between buyer and seller needs time to solidify. “I was first introduced to Joanna several months after she had [initially] spoken with our CEO, and we knew each other for the better part of a year before we ultimately undertook the transaction,” recounts Christopher Vollmond-Carstens, vice president of corporate development at Ntiva. “It takes some time to foster and develop that relationship.”

A large part of this involved determining whether or not the two organizations shared the same vision. Vollmond-Carstens explains that when Ntiva seeks to acquire a company, it looks for a cultural fit and alignment among leadership––both at Ntiva and the seller––on things like employees, technology, and customer service. “We try to find like-minded individuals who are employee-first, client-first,” he says.

Employees and Clients Matter

A common issue with M&As is that once the deal goes through, valuable employees from the seller’s side often jump ship because they dislike the buyer’s work culture. For buyers who acquire companies to gain access to a knowledge base, this is problematic. For sellers like Mirov––who continues to work at Ntiva––betraying loyal staffers is bad business.

With this in mind, Mirov explains that she spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that Ntiva was a good cultural fit for her managers and employees. She contacted several of her competitors––companies that Ntiva had also acquired––to confirm that what Ntiva’s leadership was communicating in this area was accurate. “I wanted to make sure that I took care of all of my employees, [and] that they would get the same or better benefits than they were getting with me,” she says. “At the end of the day, I wanted those 40 people to look me in the eyes and say, ‘Thank you,’ not, ‘You took your money and ran with it.’”

Mirov approached the issue of client care similarly, ensuring that Ntiva valued  customer service in the same way that MXOtech did. “I didn’t want my clients to suddenly feel like [this is] this big company, and they’re just going to be a number, and things are going to downgrade,” she says, adding that this hasn’t happened with Ntiva. Some services have even improved, like access to 24/7 support––something MXOtech wasn’t able to offer.

About the Author

CAROLYN HEINZE is a regular freelance contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.

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