September 30, 2010

Too long can be damaging

I remember one of my first visits to Romania. At that time I was going into meetings with the shareholders of various companies, starting from the morning hours until late at night so that I could barely find time to eat.

One of my business partners in Romania arranged an additional meeting to be held in the half hour of buffer time that I had between two meetings. They were looking for having a new partner in their company but they were already working with another consultant. My partner told me that they wanted to receive a second opinion and that he couldn’t let them down. I had to accept this meeting because of my principle, “The word of my partner is my promise also”. This company had already emailed me an information memorandum about their company to be given to prospective acquirers.

Before this forced meeting took place, I had the opportunity to quickly go through the 85 pages of the report that they had sent me. I took my time to read in detail some sections of the report, which I thought to be important. Then it was time for our meeting.

During most of our meeting they gave information about their company and answered our questions. By the end of the meeting they asked me about my comments on the report that they had sent us. I told them that because of the time limitation I hadn’t analyzed it in detail but that I would gladly state my thoughts on the subject. They leaned closer to the table and waited for my analysis.

I told them that the document had been prepared very well. Their eyes started to shine. Then I continued to say that such a document should stay with the current shareholders of the company and should not be shown to somebody else, and certainly not to prospective acquirers. Now, their eyes reflected anxiety. Of course, they wanted to learn the reason underlying my words. I told them that after reading their report, I would be inclined to purchase the shares of their competitor instead of their shares. Their anxiety was now coupled with fear of not understanding this world. By now our meeting time was over. They invited us to dinner to talk further on the subject.

It is not possible to say that if a document is lengthy, then it will be more useful. Reading in between the lines one could get to ideas that you would not like to convey at all, like your competitors presenting a better deal opportunity.  As playwright Sir Tom Stoppard puts it: Good things, when short, are twice as good.

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