SJU IFBE Breakfast Seminar: “Acquisition or Organic Driven Growth” on 1/29/2014


Is your family in “Growth Mode” or in “Harvest Mode“?   This is a critical ownership-level strategy question for all family businesses. If your goal is to grow your business, then this workshop is a must.

Key questions for discussion included:

  • Is your family in Growth Mode or Harvest Mode?
  • What are the keys to an effective acquisition strategy?
  • How do I fincance acquisition driven growth?
  • How do I integrate a newly acquired company?
  • What are the keys to effective due dillengence?

According to Business Week, acquisition strategies destroy shareholder wealth more than 60% of the time…so why would anyone want to grow through acquisition?

The featured speaker, John Ratliff, former President and CEO of Appletree Answering Services, Inc. shared his secrets on how to make acquisition-driven growth work for your family business.

These critical questions were examined:

  • What is best for my company – organic or acquisition-driven growth?
  • What infrastructure do I need to prepare for an acquisition?
  • How do I finance acquisition-driven growth?
  • What are the keys to effective due diligence?
  • How do I get out of a deal that is going south?
  • How do I manage the integration of a company I have purchased?
  • How do I maintain my family-based culture while I grow?


On Jan. 29, Creative Financial Group joined forces with the Saint Joseph’s University Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship to host an informative seminar featuring John Ratliff, president and founder of Appletree Answers. Ratliff enlightened participants with his energetic, informative presentation, titled “What is Best for Our Family Business: Organic- or Acquisition-driven Growth?”

Ratliff founded Appletree Answers in 1995, implementing an acquisition growth strategy that resulted in an astounding 30 percent growth rate for eight consecutive years. The company was inducted into the Philadelphia 100 Hall of Fame, earning the award as one of the fastest-growing businesses for five straight years, from 2004-’08.

Ratliff’s presentation detailed how to determine if organic- or acquisition-driven growth is right for your business, how to finance that growth while maintaining your family culture, and how to avoid common mistakes when acquiring a competitor. A main takeaway from his talk was that no matter how your company grows, its success is dependent on the happiness of your employees. When employees feel involved and appreciated, they will become your best asset and business builder. So make sure the everyday employee experience is a good one, and provide opportunities for employees to ask questions and get real answers from the company’s leaders.

Ratliff also left the audience with some valuable bits of business advice:

  1. Treat your bank like a business partner, not a vendor. Share both good and bad news with your financial institution.
  2. Build good karma and a solid reputation. Take a long-term approach when making difficult decisions regarding employees, suppliers and others.
  3. Focus on treating the people in the acquired company well. Demonstrate your commitment to them; the success of an acquisition is dependent upon the employees of the acquired business.
  4. Continually work on your own professional growth. Never be afraid to be challenged or to be told you’re wrong.

It was another enlightening seminar in our ongoing series. We hope you’ll join us for the next one!