What is the strangest remote project that you’ve completed during the pandemic?
Sure, COVID19 brought a new ‘normal’ to our regular routines, from remote daily standups with teams to participation in virtual conferences. But there must be something truly out-of-scale?
To me it was the recent #M&A deal – the acquisition of Canadian ‘Wright International’ – that was scouted, evaluated, negotiated, and closed without any actual contact in person. There were no physical trips to the facilities, no face-to-face discussions, or any other ‘personal’ stages, which are usual in the normal merger and acquisition processes.
Despite being future-driven, aviation is still, for the most part, a conservative industry. Historically, organizations and aerospace top management are somewhat used to highly cautious and personal ways of doing business.
This brings the first challenge; actually, finding the correct company keen to start the discussion towards the deal of a merger or acquisition.
Despite being the longest stage in the process, on this occasion, it became one of the most rewarding, as we got the opportunity to know better the highly respected founder of the company, who has been leading the operations of Wright International for decades. Mario boasts a bright and open mind that led our companies into the deal. And yes, we were communicating via virtual meetings and calls, while discussing all of the details and possible outcomes in between.
The company in question has decades of expertise in the aviation industry; providing dependable line maintenance services to major airlines and operators in Canada and North America. This meant that a lot of historical account information, logs of operations, archives, etc. were stored in physical formats and only partially digitized.
At this stage, the key challenge to the team and me was to collect all relevant data in order to evaluate and background-check the potential deal.
In addition, all the equipment, facilities and other tangible assets had to be evaluated remotely or by trusted partners abroad (via live video broadcasts and examinations). Despite the risk of partially ‘hidden’ information and remote assets, with the support of colleagues, including Daumantas Mockus, his team, and partners, we decided to proceed to the next stage.
Typically, when it comes to business deals in aviation we are used to negotiations 1-on-1, 3-on-3, or 1-on-15 in harder cases. It is challenging but yet rewarding.
The tone of voice, arguments in place, speed and pace, body language, and everything in between comes into play when playing for high stakes.
And now we have Zoom. Communication at a distance, without the actual look and feel of the person you are talking to. Losing, or partially reducing the key components in any negotiation makes the process even harder and longer, and necessitates the extensive use of emails and calls. Not to mention all of the technical issues, lag, and connection problems that may arise.
With SPA (Share and Purchase Agreement) in place, we reached the final stage of the merger – typically, it is a time when I would intrinsically know if both sides are happy with the outcome. Through personal meetings and the signing of the final signatures, it is easy to fully ascertain if all of the efforts have paid off. However, in this instance, the deal was closed virtually and without any physical presence whatsoever.
First time ever, I have approved final documents and welcomed a new member into our Group’s family, online and remotely.
This is the new normal, yet comes with the strange feeling of being a virtual milestone and a process that has now become part of the largest independent line maintenance network worldwide.
We are yet again exploring new frontiers and I will be sharing more updates in near future.