If you didn’t attend the 2016 ProSales 100 Conference, you missed a great opportunity for networking, catching up with friends in the industry and, most important, opportunities for learning practical ideas to improve your business. I was honored to moderate one of the final sessions of the conference and a real learning opportunity, “The M&A Treasure Hunt.”

The hunt for acquisitions can unearth treasure but, like a real treasure hunt, it can be full of wasted time and golden opportunities that sour upon further analysis. Three panelists were selected to try to help industry participants avoid M&A pitfalls and form their own view of the characteristics of optimal acquisitions.

John Bradberry of SRS Distribution, L.T. Gibson of U.S. LBM and Eric Miller of Kodiak Building Partners were the featured panelists in the M&A session. Between these three serial acquirers, their management teams have completed many scores of acquisitions over the years, both at their current and former companies. An assemblage of M&A experts sharing their experiences, their deal criteria and the characteristics they seek and avoid in acquisitions is an opportunity not to be missed.

Recurring themes included an emphasis on the strength of the management team and the need for a strong culture. The three buyers generally agreed that they were not interested in “fixer-uppers,” companies that had holes in the management team or a broken culture in need of repair. Rather, they look for companies that are already performing well and try to find ways to exchange best practices. In this way, both the acquirer and the acquired business can become better companies over time.

We believe an M&A session like this, where so many skilled acquirers and operators are sharing the secrets of their success is one of the great things about the LBM industry. In many other industries, the spirit of friendly competition is lacking and competitors refuse to share ideas that might benefit each other. In the LBM industry, we consistently see companies willing to share ideas that will lead to improvements to the industry as a whole. We all benefit when the general level of performance in the industry increases.

One LBM owner recently said it best as he talked cordially with his competitor and me, “His company has made my company a much better business over the years through the friendly competition we have.” Kudos to our conference panelists for their willingness to share ideas that can make everyone’s business better, whether you are a buyer, a potential seller or just an owner seeking to maximize the value of your own company.