In this episode, host John Laurito is joined by Founder and CEO of M&A Science, Podcaster, and Author, Kison Patel. They sit down and talk about mergers, acquisitions, and how to have a smooth transition. Kison also shares how their company culture is based on feedback and how he teaches leadership to kids at a young age.
Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a project management software for complex financial transactions. Kison has over a decade of experience as an M&A advisor and developed DealRoom after experiencing first-hand a number of deep-seated, industry-wide inefficiencies and challenges. Through developing technology, educational content, and industry training, Kison aims to bring better process solutions to an industry with growing market pressures, transaction values, and competition.
Where to find Kison:
Check out their podcast:
[1:36] His backstory and what got him to where he is today
[4:30] What the M&A Science focuses on
[5:25] Mergers and acquisitions: Keys to a smooth transition
[9:20] Make giving and taking feedback a part of company culture
[10:43] How do leaders make sure they are breeding the right culture of feedback
[13:18] On leaders struggling to communicate with their team
[15:36] Teaching leadership to kids
[18:37] Agile M&A and BossMove Podcast
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large for the last 20 years. Today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic. What makes the best leader so good? Welcome to tomorrow’s leader!
John All right, tomorrow’s leaders, so I’ve got Kison Patel, who is the CEO and founder of M&A Science., he is also a podcaster. He is an author and just a really cool story. I enjoyed talking with him a lot, in fact, so much so that I might end up doing a Part two and dove a little deeper because we got into some really cool stuff just about the whole merger and acquisition in area, different industries. We talked about what makes a good workplace and what leaders need to be focused on and blending different cultures, all kinds of cool stuff. So lots of fun to talk to this guy. I think you’re going to really like this one here is Kison.
John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader-related, related to lead and yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host with a great guest. Today I’ve got Kison Patel, who is the CEO and founder of M&A Science. He’s an author. He’s a podcaster. He’s a very successful consultant. Very happy to have you on the show. Kison, thanks for joining.
Kison My pleasure, John. Thanks for having me.
John Yeah, I’m admiring it because we’ve got some of our audience that’s watching on YouTube so they can see your setup there, which is really cool, great setup. Most of our audience is listening, so they just hear the great sound quality. But you’re a podcaster. I love talking to fellow podcasters, so we’ll get into that a little bit, but I’d love to hear your back story. You know, you’re very successful. You obviously provide a lot of advice and guidance and do a lot of great work. What got you to where you are right now?
Kison I started undergrad like most folks but actually failed at undergrad. Academic deficiencies had a real short attention span. Struggled with it on my way, working for minimum wage in the south side of Chicago for an uncle of mine. And that’s where I learned to actually develop work ethics in a year period of time. I was managing a few stores for him and had aspirations to get into real estate figures. That’s where I can build a career without having a college degree and just terrible at selling houses. Couldn’t connect with the emotional aspects of that kind of sale, but found my way into this little boutique M&A advisory practice and started getting traction there. Love the concept of analyzing financials, building a narrative, identifying where the opportunity was on those kind of private business transactions, and ended up a year later, starting my own consultancy practice to help various buyers and sellers of private companies, which grew over a period of a decade to working with larger companies, some larger hospitality brands, and small financial institutions.
Kison Then the recession happened. Got a good kick like a lot of others did and started looking over. The tech space took some inspiration from what was happening. The software industry and seeing how to offer engineers were using these cool project management tools that thought why not project management for these large, complex M&A deals that happen in the world and started a company called Deal Room in 2012 struggled like hell for about five years and was very fortunate. A friend of mine marketing was like, Hey man, you should do a podcast. And I was like, What the hell’s a podcast? And a long story short that really helped create a lot of tailwind for our business essentially evolved into a media business within our company that today we create a lot of educational resources, blogs, ebooks. We published our second book working on a third one and ended up starting an online school for M&A, which we operate the M&A Science Academy today. So all things M&A, education, and technology tools and love the space have a lot of fun with it.
John Yeah, I love it. Well, it’s exciting. And first of all, I love your honesty because there’s a lot of people that come on and they tell nothing but great success. And you started off. And I admire that because I did too. I almost failed out of college. And, you know, sometimes it’s a wake-up call and you have, you know, your trials and tribulations and ups and downs. But you’ve gotten to where you are because of persistence and no doubt just perseverance and sheer desire to keep moving ahead. And you’ve been creative. You’ve adapted. So I love what you’ve done. So with the M&A space, are you in all different industries, or is it certain industries that you’re focused on now?
Kison We’re well-diversified. I would say we have a focus on corporate M&A, so we tend to work with a billion-dollar market cap or larger organizations and also private equity-backed rollups.
John Are you actually a part of sourcing that and kind of matchmaking or is it more of the actual logistics and process and everything?
Kison I would say we provide the tech infrastructure for them to manage the lifecycle, the deal, the sourcing, the diligence, and then integrations where things really get complex when you have to make a lot of changes to combine companies and get the value you anticipated out of them. And then we also provide a lot of educational tools. Laws and templates, frameworks to optimize the process and get people aligned on what they need to get done.
John So let me ask you a question because there are so many things I want to ask you about. I know we’ve got somewhat limited time here, but you know a big thing I see leaders struggle within companies and especially when it comes to mergers and acquisitions where you have just these culture clashes, you have different groups getting together that just somehow can’t integrate very well or they don’t or they choose not to or whatnot. And I’ve seen the debacle that creates in many cases. What is the key to that? I mean, from a leader’s standpoint, and you’re trying to avoid having these silos within an organization and companies within companies necessary sometimes. How does a leader, what kind of leader do to help transition that and make that smooth?
Kison Yeah, I would say it comes from both sides of the table. Transparency is going to be the big theme here. One has a buyer. Can I bring this in state of mind to the very front in the process? Can I be clear with you? Hey, John, I’m interested in acquiring your business, but this is what I’m actually trying to do with it. This is where I see the opportunity and what the vision of that end state is going to look like. Because for this to work out, I need to be aligned with you so that we can work together to achieve this goal. So I think having that level of transparency and then giving you that understanding of what it’s actually going to take for us to achieve this goal and having you part of it aligned to your team and we work together. The second is, can we get aligned around our respected organization’s values?
Kison Can I be upfront candid about that and understand your organization’s values so we can identify where we have things in common in terms of the way we work in our organizations and where we have differences and where those differences may cause some friction because we may realize that there are totally different ways of working. You have a very top-down management structure. We’re very flat and collaborative and encourage a lot of the bottoms up ideas. And that’s not going to work together. Maybe it helps us identify that we need to redefine our strategy and how we’re going to integrate the companies. Or maybe it’s better not to do the deal. So I think a lot of this is built around being transparent and clear on the goals of the doing the deal of what are going to be the drivers. And then also the values to align around where these cultural differences are going to come from.
John Have you seen a lot of and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot where they’ve even though they’ve recognized maybe they have different values and there are too many differences that they’ve still forged ahead with it? Have you seen where times where it’s come close and they’ve identified that there is just no real easy way to coordinate based on values and everything like that they’ve backed out of it? Have you seen that?
Kison There are some cases there’s and I think that strong leadership to do that, there’s this thing John called deal fever that yeah, you vested in leave, especially when you start going through the deal process, you put a lot of resources, you actually put a good amount of time and capital as you progressed through the deal. And once you to a certain point, you’re really brought in and you want to push to get this deal done and you start ignoring some of these red flags, and that’s a common thing that happens. Yeah. So there are ways to even approach it. I had a really good interview I did with 3M. They actually have an approach with a good red team exercise. So thinking, how do you create this team internally that their role is to knock the deal down so they’re building a case to knock the deal down, and they both presented to the deal committee? Here’s the case Do the deal hear the case? Not to do the deal and really use that as a mechanism to remove those cognitive biases that tend to happen?
John Wow. I love that. That’s a great way to look at it. I mean, if you are and you’re right, because leaders get so and it doesn’t even matter if it’s a merger acquisition or if it’s a project or it’s a new initiative or a new product, leaders get so emotionally vested and invested they see what they want to see and they become blind and ultimately don’t see those red flags. But I love your concept there of having that red team there. Is that something that leaders should think of a CEO is should the leaders have that concept for really anything? I mean, hey, listen, we’re talking about going into a new market. Let’s build a red team. Tell us all the reasons why we should not. Does that sense?
Kison In my company, I encourage the feedback, I want to know. I encourage criticism and make it part of our company culture. I even have to give a disclaimer to some new hires that, hey, it may sound like people are talking to each other, but they’re not. This is something that I want everybody to be comfortable criticizing each other because that’s what’s actually going to help us get better. If I can give you this unfiltered feedback and you’re comfortable and used to it. Sometimes we the personal message and the business message together and the things people get defensive about it, it’s like, No, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings periodically, I got to remind. Team members that look, I sometimes I just jump in and I know I’m supposed to give parties the positive criticism, but for the sake of time, I’ll catch up on the positive stuff later and let me just give you the criticism that’s on top of mind because I know that’s what’s going to actually drive more value and help you identify where to get better. That’s probably one of the most powerful things to have in a company. And I think people get used to it, they really value it, and they find it as a great mechanism for them to identify where and how they can improve.
John I would agree, and I’ve seen organizations that do that very well. I’ve seen the leaders that breed that type of environment and that culture very well. But I also know there are leaders that may be listening right now saying, Oh yeah, I, that’s my culture. I mean, people criticize me. I take criticism well. And in reality, they don’t. And they’re not. They’re just not self-aware. How do you what? Is there a way for a leader to know kind of to acid test that and say and know whether they are doing that and breeding the right culture or not?
Kison You have to invite it directly, even having one-on-one’s and bring it up. Even after this interview, John, turn around, ask you, How could I have done this interview better? And get some of that. Then you get used to it. So now I start looking for it. I need these clues and I keep trying to pick them up. I remember I did an exit interview and the same thing. I want feedback on leadership. How could I have been a better leader? I went home. I had my daughter. She’s only 10 years old. The time took her out for dinner. I said, “Hey, honey, how about getting some feedback as a dad?” And I asked her, like, Give me the good bad. And it was so surprising because the things I thought she was going to say were good were actually the criticism and then vice versa. As the first things I thought she had criticism were the positives, like, Yeah, you know, you’re tough on me and this and that you really pushed me, and it always surprises you.
John That’s impressive. Now you’ve got me now. Well, I’m going to do that. Gotta love that. We don’t ask for feedback enough. And even, yeah, as a parent, I mean, you can ask feedback on really anything, even friends. How am I as a friend or how well do I listen? We don’t do that enough.
Kison It’s a listening pattern. You got to get in that mindset where you need to enter conversations. A lot of times we have our goals, initiatives, things we want to put and get out of the conversation. You really need to put that aside and listen to the other person, understand what their initiatives are, what their goals are, figure out how you can align yourself around them and how helping them achieve their goals that will help you progress so much further. Yeah, I think too just that mindset is so important because a lot of times we get so distracted. And you know, I mentioned failing out of school. I struggled with ADD. Things are always on my mind. Yeah, and you get yourself in that mindset. I call it ‘be dumb’ where you just assume what you know is wrong or you know nothing and just get into that mindset where you can be actively listening, even if things pop up. Take a quick note, get back to it later, and really, really listen and add the layers of the conversation. Get some depth. Ask why, given the person’s head, understand where they’re coming from, how they feel, why they feel that way.
John Yeah, it’s interesting. You all have our blind spots and we don’t necessarily know what we’re doing well or not, or we think we know what we’re doing well or not. But I just think about the other side. There are so many times I might be working with somebody and I’m saying to myself, Wow, this person is really good at this, or, hey, you know, if this person did something different and it’s up in my mind and I should know better, I should offer that feedback. But as humans, we don’t always. So there’s I think we as leaders, we’ve got to recognize that there’s a lot of stuff going on in the brains of the people that we’re surrounding ourselves with that we’re not pulling out. And it might be feedback, but it also might be ideas. It might be things that can really contribute to the well-being of the organization, strategic ideas, and decisions that we’re not necessarily tapping into because leaders aren’t asking the right questions. Do you feel that that is the case sometimes that leaders just struggle to really they’re telling too much and not asking enough?
Kison I agree, I think it’s how you stage your communication framework in your organization, where objectively you want to be transparent, but you want to let your team know that that’s what you’re trying to achieve. I want to create a communication framework where everyone is really comfortable sharing their ideas and also pointing out problems. Because there’s a growing organization, cracks are starting to appear and we want to make sure they don’t blow us through the floor. So let’s identify it. And I think it’s really important I got great stories of just the most. Junior software engineer put his hand up with an idea, and it turned out to be one of the biggest features in our product. And if we didn’t have that framework of Kilvey communication, we made them comfortable to speak up and share their ideas and plus that lens to a good workplace. Look at is those three key elements having the communication platform. Everybody has a voice that’s heard and they feel their voice is being heard.
Kison The second is acknowledging achievements across the company, and engineers have big achievements and making sure that’s acknowledged. And even with the sales winning big logos and then also creating an environment where you feel your work among friends. But even that time together just to just hang out, have whatever it is. Social stuff it’s funny is different culture, culture, America. We like to drink others. They go hiking mountains and things like that. But either way, you’re just taking time away, learning about each other, family-feel you had that relationship makes it really comfortable to work with your team. Get the help when you need it. Yeah, I think those things are just being a front. Hey, this is what we’re trying to achieve, and this is where I feel is an ideal workplace. And you know, what can we do to make sure that’s happening?
John That’s great. I know you do. You mentioned you do some work with teaching kids leadership. I love that because wow, what a great time to start in somebody’s life as a kid. Why? Why wait till you’re an adult to learn how to lead? Tell, tell us a little bit about that.
Kison The story of my daughter. I think she was seven years old. I read Ray Dalio’s principles to her, which was above a reading level, but it led to some good conversations about empathy, how the brain works open versus closed-minded. And then I started detailing my principles. You know, I’m about discipline, learning, pattern empathy, and I’m like, You know, that isn’t all this stuff. Why don’t we make a point to go interview other people and see what they have to say? Learn from them? And I had asked a buddy to do a favor like the CEO of Morningstar here in Chicago. So he did this pilot interview where my daughter led the whole interview and interviewed him about leadership, and it was such a fun thing. We had such great feedback around it.
Kison Just I had a friend call me right afterward is like, Hey, man, I think you’re on to something. We need to have these little girls break down these corporate titans and get the truth out of them. But then we ended up turning into a series of my My Passion project is this new podcast called Boss Move, where essentially it’s about interviewing influencers, taking their top three principles for leadership or success, and workshopping it. Turn it into some practical how-to’s for a younger audience to understand, because a lot of times I see the influencers talk about vulnerability, empathy. But what does that mean to somebody that’s in high school or even junior high? And can we turn it down to some practical how-to’s? I feel like that’s what’s lacking right now, the education system, they don’t learn a lot of these kinds of life lessons.
John Yeah, that’s such a good point. They know the concept. They learn a concept of the principle. But you’re right. What does that actually look like and mean and what are examples? And that’s such a good point and that’s missing in how we teach people.
Kison I’ll give you an example with my household, with the kids, I have a rule that they can’t use the word thank you or sorry alone. They’re very transactional. Words are essentially meaningless. So they need to attach meaning to it. So they say thank you or sorry, it’s the for what or why. Thank you for, you know, being so fast. Thank you for the conversation. Thank you for bagging my groceries. Whatever it is. Thank you for the great service and recommendations. Sorry, I lost your umbrella in a really defining but teaches them the why. A lot of times you forget about that. We start having these dialogs and we ask for something, but we don’t add in the WHY to put in the level of detail that gets people to understand things. So just creating that as a behavior pattern, it goes a long way because now they build a case for things. When they ask for something, they’re putting the rationale to it.
John Right. And that’s, you know, that’s the with them. What’s in it for me? You know, oftentimes we don’t we tell somebody as a leader, as somebody to do something, but they’re not understanding how that’s connecting with the big mission or overall vision or connecting the dots, so to speak or how that benefits them.
Kison People don’t want to do anything unless there’s a good reason why. So, you know, why don’t we teach these kids that are a little sooner than later?
John Yeah, exactly. Wow. Well, if people want to listen to the podcast, is it just on audio or video too?
Kison I yeah, I think we have. We have both of them. I know, I know we have audio, and I think they do video highlights the leadership podcast. It’s called BossMove just one word. And then, we have M&A science is the M&A podcast.
John Excellent. And we’ll put that in the show notes for the listeners so they can click right to it. How about if people want to find out more about you or find out more about M&A Science?
Kison Absolutely. We have a website, mascience.com. We have over 350 pieces of published content that covers all areas of M&A, so anybody is interested in learning how many tons of resources there. Myself, I’m on LinkedIn. It’s just Kison Patel. I’m happy to engage and talk M&A, shop leadership, all of them.
John Great. And then lastly, your books, if people want to pick that up, I know they I saw on your website, I think you can get them right. Or is it on Amazon?
Kison Both are on Amazon and the book, on our website. I think the one book that’s probably a little more popular is called agile M&A. We did a case study with Google last year and how they use agile techniques in their M&A approach. And um, it’s just a nice book that’s designed as a framework to help other companies adopt that approach for agility when approaching M&A grade.
John While I’m going to use your technique here and say thank you guys for being such a great guest and sharing such wisdom and doing it in such a fun way because I love your stories and examples. So you’ve been great.
Kison It was great. You’re a good podcaster, very easy to talk to.
John Well, thank you very much. Terrific. Well, hopefully, we’ll give you another time. We’ll go deeper because there’s so much more I want to talk to you about as well. And thank you all for tuning in today on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, as always. Like share, subscribe. Go down below. Give a five-star review, of course, and I welcome your feedback in terms of future guests and content issues you may be struggling with or just things you want to learn about leadership. Let me know. Direct message me and I’ll be happy to incorporate it into the next episode and I’ll give you some props.
John I’ll let you know where that I’ll shout out your name and let everybody know where that idea came from. So thanks for doing it again, Kison. Thanks for being such a great guest. And we’ll look forward to seeing everybody next time. Take care.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching. Reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Once again, that’s John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!