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Adapting to Remote Deal Making during COVID-19

Remote working challenged buyers and sellers to get acquainted with each other virtually throughout 2020. Because Volaris Group prides itself on long-term relationship building, the M&A team needed to find new ways to connect with business owners without meeting in person.

Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, Volaris managed to close more than 20 acquisitions last year. But during a time when buyers and sellers had no choice but to work remotely, helping sellers reach the stage where they felt comfortable selling their business meant adapting to new methods of communication to build relationships.

We checked in with members of the Education team to learn more on their experience completing two acquisitions virtually within one month. The companies that have since joined Volaris Group together are Go Solutions and Oasys LLC, which support the special education industry with innovative software solutions. The owners of both organizations were looking to sell to an acquirer that valued their employees and legacy.

The Shift to Building Relationships Virtually

From frequent trips across the country to having to adapt to working from home, Michael Borello, Education Group Leader, was unsure of how he would be able to connect with owners and leadership teams at a personal level over the phone. Despite his initial skepticism, he shares, “I was surprised at how easily virtual meetings worked. Using cameras helped us feel like we were in the room together.” Thanks to the ease of scheduling online meetings, Borello was able to introduce team members much earlier in the process than he used to in the past. Building relationships early on with the Go Solutions and Oasys teams was especially important in emphasizing Volaris’ intentions to support acquired businesses forever.

Tami Lemire, Corporate Development Manager, agrees that relationships are a critical part of the acquisition process. “Building trust and rapport is one of the core values of Volaris Group. Despite being limited to virtual communications, I have enjoyed learning more about people at a personal level through seeing kids, pets, and even family photos in the background.”

In addition to building personal connections remotely, Borello emphasizes that the key benefits of Volaris still need to shine through to prospects.

“Whether we meet virtually or in person, our goal is always to show the true value and benefit of a company joining Volaris Group.”

- Michael Borello, Education Group Leader, Volaris Group

Over the last year, Lemire has been working closely with marketing to develop new content that highlights the Volaris Group story and philosophy. “It is more important than ever that owners and decision makers are able to make decisions that drive the future growth of their organization. Continuously evaluating our content and understanding what decision makers care about most has been a top priority,” says Lemire.

Looking Forward to the Future

Both Borello and Lemire look forward to travelling again soon, however, they are not ready to abandon virtual meetings entirely. “I hope we will continue to have more face to face virtual meetings earlier in the process in a post pandemic world. Getting to know each other and build relationships early on allows for more confidence in what post-acquisition life will look like,” says Lemire.

Upon the return of in person events, Borello is excited to introduce the Go Solutions and Oasys teams to Volaris networking events, where leadership teams from across the organization can meet to collaborate by sharing best practices and resources. He shares,

“That’s something I miss, because that’s an opportunity for me to get company owners together with other company owners that are from different parts of the country. Meeting in-person helps the company culture shine through.”

- Michael Borello, Education Group Leader, Volaris Group

While adapting to remote deal making during COVID-19 was a challenge, the Education team was still able to build relationships and add great new businesses to the portfolio.

From our team to yours, here are some key tips for sellers when face-to-face meetings aren’t an option:

  • Leave time for small talk and use video when possible. This can help build trust, comfort and connection.
  • Never hesitate to ask questions… about anything! Not being able to speak face-to-face can sometimes make it more difficult to communicate, but being proactive can help.
  • Attend virtual events. If possible, a virtual beer night or networking event can help you get to know the team further and build connections outside of formal meetings.
  • Take the time to dig into information provided, including acquisition stories and case studies of other businesses which have been acquired. This is a great way to learn even more.