November 18, 2014

For successful mergers, sharpen your elevator pitch

In the mergers-and-acquisitions romantic comedy Working Girl, the dramatic climax comes when protagonist Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) proves her M&A bona fides to an executive in an elevator. It's unclear where the trope of an "elevator pitch" began, but culturally, we fantasize about that critical moment when we win a client or partner over in under a minute. 

In reality, mergers are often more protracted, less cinematic affairs. Months or years of wooing and contemplation can pass before parties in a merger agree to move ahead, but that doesn't render the elevator pitch totally obsolete. Especially in networking opportunities, preparing your elevator pitch can be the start of a conversation that leads to expansion or a big payday for your company. 

The guiding questions are simple: Why merge? Why merge with my company? Why merge with my company now? Rich Casselberry, an IT management specialist whose company underwent a joint venture in 2008, wrote in CIO that the endgame should be focusing on the bottom line. 

"In my case," he said, "I know I can save the new joint company 20 percent in annual IT operating costs. That's my pitch: 'You let me run this; I'll save you twenty percent.' In this case that's pretty close to $25 million a year."

With the rise of social networking, one could argue that the new elevator pitch could be clocked at under 140 characters. That might be an overstatement, but as Tess says in Working Girl, "You never know where the next big idea is going to come from." Similarly, as a tech executive exploring mergers, you never know when your brief pitch will come in handy. Refining it by focusing on key figures and principles can help hook the executive you meet in an elevator.