What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Companies that Turned Down Lucrative Buyouts
Six years ago, I was sitting in the glass-encased conference room at Coca-Cola’s headquarters, my head spinning. My heart was beating furiously as I watched my father—the owner of Tân Hiệp Phát Beverage Group (THP), our family-owned business—turn down a $2.5 billion offer from one of the largest beverage companies in the world.
At the time, Coca-Cola generated revenues of $48 billion, and there was no corner of the planet where it was not aggressively marketing its products, including Vietnam. There was a lot of potential and both sides knew it. Coca-Cola showed us their plans to grab ever more market share across the emerging markets. In theory, that would be a great thing, right?
It wasn’t right for THP, and the same can be said for other successful regional companies that have been courted by larger corporations only to walk away. Some may think those who turn down offers like the one we were given from Coca-Cola are foolish. However, consider what can be learned from business owners who decide to forge ahead on their own:
- It’s about more than money. Had THP’s deal had gone ahead, it would have been the largest foreign acquisition in Vietnam’s history by deal value. It still would be the second largest today. At its core, Coca-Cola’s proposal undermined THP’s vision; it wasn’t a “win-win” partnership. THP’s vision was, and still is, to expand throughout Asia and beyond with new and exciting brands. Those who walk away from deals understand the intrinsic value of their product/service and have a passion to grow it and maintain control of it. For these business owners, it’s more than just money; it involves a vested interest in their brand and its future.
- They are focused on their vision for the company and controlling their destiny. Every entrepreneur wants their business to be successful; that success can be defined a number of different ways, but it often has to do with whether you have achieved your vision for the company. In many cases, companies that have successfully reached their local market and become regional and even national, become acquisition targets for multinationals. Companies committed to independence and driving their own destiny often face offers of cooperation from richer and stronger corporate partners. These multinationals can become stiff competition once rejected, but those who are committed and passionate about their independence and long-term vision will continue to successfully compete despite that increased pressure.
- They understand their market. This is how companies become successful in the first place: they successfully identify and serve their market with tailored products. In the case of THP, the decision to maintain independence was made with our understanding of the market. One of THP’s key mottos has always been “We exist to serve the customer at a profit.” Focusing on this central goal is what has allowed us to control the market. We understand who our market consists of and what they want—which is why Coca-Cola wanted us. Many companies who have been in a similar situation as us and walked away from a multi-national deal become the real competition for those large corporations. They keep this competitive edge because they know the market uniquely.
Walking away from multi-national buy-outs is not for the faint of heart. However, those companies that do so have specific and strategic reasons. Learn more about how THP has fared since it left Coca-Cola at the negotiation table here.