Hunters, Gatherers, and Cultivators: How to Organize Your M&A Team


By René Paula

If you, like me, sat through middle school history class, you’ve probably heard of a hunter-gatherer society. These societies divided labor into two groups: hunters went out, sometimes for days at a time, to hunt for game, while gatherers spent their time gathering roots, fruits, vegetables, and anything else they could find. These pre-agricultural societies were some of the first known examples of division of labor, and they provide great ideas for how to effectively organize your M&A team. That being said, I’d like to add a third group to truly form a cohesive, efficient M&A team: cultivators.

Bringing together an intentional mix of hunters, gatherers, and cultivators will ensure that your M&A team is not only strong but also successful.


Hunters source the deals you are seeking. They go out on the hunt for whatever your group is looking to acquire. Without hunters, you may stumble upon some of what you’re looking for, but you’ll often be late to the game. If a group of Stone Age hunters found the remains of a wooly mammoth that someone else had killed, that didn’t help them—the meat would have already been picked clean by other predators. Similarly, if you don’t have hunters in your group, you won’t find what you need at the right time. If your company is looking to acquire a number of smaller businesses, hunters are essential to locating and identifying potential targets so that the next group, the gatherers, can do its thing.


The next group you want on your team are gatherers. Just as traditional gatherers went out to find fruits and vegetables to help sustain the society, your gatherers will also forage, collecting information that will help ensure a successful process down the line. Once your hunters have identified a target, your gatherers will spend the time to court the company, learn more about it, perform the due diligence, and negotiate a transaction. Gatherers include multiple specialists from your finance, tax, and legal divisions. Gatherers will take the deal through closing.


The final part of your team will consist of cultivators, who nurture the deal from closing through to success. Once primitive societies had surplus fruits and vegetables, they were able to take seeds from their leftovers and plant them. This allowed them to grow new foods and provide crops for the future. In the same way, your cultivators will make sure that a deal succeeds after closing. This is where most transactions fail. When the hunters and gatherers move on to secure the next deal, many buyers struggle with so-called post-merger integration, or PMI. While a company may assign a specific business unit to own the assets of a new acquisition, the key players usually don’t start to figure out how the two companies can actually work together until after the closing. Instead, you can use your cultivators to act as the glue between the deal team and the core business, establishing an action plan to maximize value from day one. Cultivators follow through on strategic business plans to integrate and grow the potential value of the new combination.

Understanding the need for hunters, gatherers, and cultivators and utilizing all three groups together are the keys to maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your M&A team.