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The Art of the Acquisition

(February 2009) posted on Thu Feb 26, 2009

The right way to buy a rival.

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By Jake Widman

The newspapers, currently full of downbeat economic news, continue to report that even those companies with money to spend aren’t spending it. So it may seem odd to think about buying another company at this point, but even in today’s climate, businesses still need to keep growing. One of the most effective ways to grow a business can be by acquiring another operation-and, for better or worse, this may be a good time to find operations ripe for the buying.

Sometimes, an acquisition can help a business grow by eliminating the competition. For instance, if you’re splitting printing business with another firm and you acquire that firm (plus its accounts), you’ve increased your market share in one fell swoop. And, sometimes, an acquisition can help a business grow by enabling it to extend its product line and attract new clients.

It’s important to remember, however, that an acquisition doesn’t just involve equipment, employees, and client lists. It’s also an acquisition of reputation, public perception, and company culture. These easily overlooked factors can make or break the success of an acquisition.

To explore the process and results of print shop mergers, we spoke with executives at four operations of various sizes about recent acquisitions they made. Here, I’ll describe their experiences as well as what they learned from the transaction. One thing they all agree on: If they had to do it over again, they would, despite the increasingly troublesome economy.

BigInk: Acquiring the competition
BigInk ( in Seattle has been in business since 1991, supplying large-format and digital printing and installation services to corporate, retail, and public-works customers. With a Durst Rho 600 UV flatbed printer, a Gandinnovations Jeti 10-foot solvent printer, a Mutoh 87-inch solvent machine, and two Oce LightJet photo printers-plus assorted laminators, scanners, and other support equipment-BigInk produces display graphics, event signage, murals, window graphics, vehicle wraps, and more from its 23,000-square-foot Seattle facility.