Integration of acquisitions is really, really hard, on a variety of levels. And when your company is buying other companies at a very fast clip, that task is daunting. That’s why FOLIO: selected Tom Flynn, CFO of Summit Business Media, which has made three major acquisitions since its founding just a year and a half ago. Summit essentially went from non-existent to a $132 million company in that time. (Flynn was CFO at Highline Media, a $50 million b-to-b publisher that merged with Pfingston Publishing to form Summit.)
Since then, Summit has acquired Agent Media, Wicks Business Information, and Judy Diamond & Associates. The core acquisition, when Highline merged with Pfingston, was the key. "We came together as equals," Flynn says. "We were roughly the same in revenue and EBITDA. And the cultures were similar because we were both private-equity backed and we both had strong management teams."
The key to making process and systems integrations work, Flynn says, is keeping an open mind and moving forward with a best-of-breed approach. "It’s developing a consistent culture, but also learning from the acquired company and not saying, ‘You’re going to fit into our model.’ Remember why you bought the company in the first place."
Highline had strong growth in e-media, so that model was imposed on Pfingston, Flynn said. But Pfingston had a more robust conference operation, so the central registration and finance software backbone of that company is being rolled out across the rest of Summit.
Flynn’s biggest success so far has been getting different companies to work well together. And in the back office, he says, it has been the ability to standardize. "We’ve taken three or four shared-services cultures and merged them," Flynn says. "We have been able to take millions of expenses out of those functions and put them back into the products themselves.
VITAL STATS: Summit Business Media went from non-existent to $132 million in a year and a half.