Navigating the Waters of M&A: A Guide for Small Managed IT Businesses

Navigating the Waters of M&A: A Guide for Small Managed IT Businesses


Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) can be a pivotal moment for small managed IT businesses, offering opportunities for growth, exit, or partnership. Understanding the common terms and concepts in the M&A landscape is crucial for sellers to navigate this complex process effectively. As a buyer in the IT sector, Fidelis brings to the table a wealth of experience and a commitment to fostering growth and innovation. Here, we'll explore key M&A terms and considerations from the perspective of a seller, with insights from Fidelis's approach to acquisitions.

Buyer Types

In the M&A world, buyers generally fall into two categories: Strategic Buyers and Private Equity firms. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

# Strategic Buyer: Advantages

Strategic buyers, like Fidelis, are companies within the same industry or a related field looking to expand their market share, acquire new technologies, or achieve synergies. The advantages of partnering with a strategic buyer include:

  • Alignment of Vision: Strategic buyers understand your business and the industry, ensuring a smoother integration and alignment of goals.
  • Growth Opportunities: Access to new markets, customers, and resources can propel the business to new heights.
  • Operational Synergies: Potential for cost savings and efficiency improvements by integrating operations, technologies, and teams.

# Private Equity: Disadvantages

While private equity firms offer capital and expertise in scaling businesses, there are some disadvantages:

  • Shorter Investment Horizon: They typically seek to exit their investment within a few years, which can pressure the business to deliver quick returns.
  • Operational Changes: Private equity may implement significant changes to drive profitability, which can impact company culture and long-term strategy.

Second Bite & Chips off the Table

The concept of a "Second Bite" allows sellers to retain a portion of their business's equity in the deal, offering a chance to benefit from the company's future growth. "Chips off the table" refers to the initial sale proceeds that sellers receive, securing their financial reward while still having skin in the game for future upside.

Platform vs. Add-On

A Platform acquisition is when a buyer acquires a company to serve as the foundation for further acquisitions in that sector. An Add-On acquisition is made by a company to complement an existing platform, aiming to add value through new capabilities or market access.

Letter of Intent (LOI)

The LOI is a document that outlines the preliminary agreement between the buyer and seller, marking a significant step forward in the negotiation process. It includes the deal structure, purchase price, and key terms, serving as a roadmap for the transaction.

Asset Purchase: Benefits

In an Asset Purchase, the buyer acquires specific assets of a company (e.g., customer lists, equipment). This method offers benefits such as:

  • Flexibility: Buyers can select the assets they want and avoid unwanted liabilities.
  • Tax Advantages: Often provides beneficial tax treatment for buyers.

Share Purchase

Conversely, a Share Purchase involves buying the company's shares, thus acquiring ownership of the entity and its liabilities. This method is generally simpler but carries risks associated with existing liabilities.

Seller Financed: Benefits

Seller Financing occurs when the seller provides a loan to the buyer to complete the purchase. Benefits include:

  • Deal Facilitation: Makes it easier to close the deal if traditional financing is hard to secure.
  • Potential for Better Terms: Sellers may negotiate favorable terms or interest rates.

Due Diligence

This critical phase allows the buyer to thoroughly examine the seller's business, assessing financial performance, legal compliance, and operational efficiency to ensure the deal aligns with their investment criteria.

Brokers: Advantages and Disadvantages

Brokers can play a pivotal role in M&A transactions by connecting sellers with potential buyers. While they offer expertise and access to a network, their fees and the potential for misalignment of interests pose disadvantages.


Earnouts are contingent payments that depend on the business's future performance, aligning the seller's compensation with the company's success post-acquisition.


EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) is a key financial metric used to evaluate a company's operating performance and profitability, serving as a benchmark for valuing businesses in M&A transactions.

Audited Financial Statements

These documents provide a transparent and detailed view of the company's financial health, prepared by an independent auditor, and are crucial for due diligence.

As a seller in the small managed IT business sector, understanding these terms and concepts is essential for navigating the M&A process successfully. Fidelis's approach to acquisitions emphasizes strategic alignment, operational synergies, and long-term growth, offering sellers a unique opportunity to transition their business while ensuring its continued success and legacy. Whether you're considering an exit or looking for a strategic partnership, being well-informed will empower you to make decisions that align with your goals and values.

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