Opinion

When Bookatable met Michelin: Attracting acquisition from a large firm and staying true to the SME mission

6 min read

05 October 2016

In January this year, Bookatable was acquired by Michelin. Attracting this acquisition from such a large firm heralded an exciting growth chapter for the business and cemented our position as the European leading online restaurant booking platform.

The deal opened up new opportunities for both businesses, including accelerated development in the online restaurant reservation sector across Europe. However, despite attracting acquisition, the Bookatable brand, and what it stands for, remains the same.

For many entrepreneurs, acquisition is a significant business goal, with the resultant cash injection enabling the company to develop into a bigger and better brand.

However, the risk of losing your business’ ethos comes hand in hand with input from a bigger and more established company. To stay true to your original mission there are a number of key factors to take into consideration.

Look at what you do well – and the gaps a buyer can fill

When preparing your company for acquisition, the first step is to take a really good look at all of your daily processes, activities and systems. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses at an early stage will not only allow you to right any wrongs which may put off a buyer, but will also help you to drill down on what your business excels at.

When you are confident on what your major selling points are, and what you want to protect, you will be in a better position to shout about them. Importantly, this also means that you will be able to pinpoint what support a bigger company can bring and how they can help grow your brand in the way you want.

Have something to say – and keep saying it

Whichever service you provide, be passionate about it and look to consistently raise the bar in terms of how you deliver it. When consumers get used to hearing from you, you become a voice they can trust. Having a strong and engaged consumer base is attractive to potential investors, and the conversations you have with your audience shouldn’t change when you get acquired.

New financial backing can help you shout even louder about what is important to you. If you have been in central London recently, you will have seen Bookatable’s latest advertising campaign encouraging diners to explore the capital’s vibrant restaurant scene. We know what we want to talk to consumers about, and this hasn’t changed since working with Michelin.

Continue reading on the next page for the three remaining recommendations Bookatable CEO Joe Steele has for SMEs on a quest of attracting acquisition from a large firm.

Hire the best – and look after them

As an entrepreneur growing a business, pride yourself on seeking out, hiring and then retaining the best team members you can. SMEs are often a hive of talented individuals with a real sense of drive, which is extremely attractive to potential buyers.

It’s really important to harness this spirit before, during and after an acquisition as a team that is dedicated to delivering results will continue to raise the bar. Keeping a nimble and enthusiastic team will mean your business will keep the quick and reactive mentality which made your SME a success in the first place.

Don’t go in blind – set integration goals

The speed and ease with which teams integrate and start working together is often a determining factor in how successful an acquisition is. It’s important that your colleagues buy into the idea of the acquisition from the start and are happy to work towards achieving a bigger goal.

Taking the time to demonstrate how acquisition will help them to achieve their own team goals, as well as setting key milestones during the process will keep motivation levels high. A company that is excited about expansion and change is attractive, and in turn, this will keep the spirit of your original business alive when bigger budgets and increased resource allow your teams to flourish.

Take the time to meet and greet

By their nature, a willingness to try something new is innate in small businesses. Being a market leader and disrupting your industry will get you noticed by investors. When you’re faced with a bigger business in an acquisition process, your team may worry that they will be faced with a slower and more risk averse parent company which will slow them down.

Taking the time to arrange face to face meetings with your team and the buyer’s team will give your colleagues confidence that their culture will not be affected, and they can maintain independence.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum arranged time for his team to meet Mark Zuckerberg during the Facebook acquisition process, which successfully secured their buy in.

Taking these points into account will help ensure that your business is attractive to larger companies, as well as encourage a smooth post-acquisition transition allowing you to retain the SME mindset and integral values of your business.

Joe Steele is the CEO at Bookatable

If you’re not yet at the acquisition stage, ecommerce and exports are increasing business growth confidence of UK SMEs.