Understanding the culture of your target company

Tips for buying your own company – from Yvonne van Dormael, owner at YVD

Miguel Meuleman

By Miguel Meuleman

Professor of Entrepreneurship

11 May 2022
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Entrepreneurship through acquisition offers an alternative approach for individuals to realise an entrepreneurial ambition and become owner-manager of a company. Through Vlerick’s Entrepreneurial Buyout Academy, we trained over 300 buyout candidates in the past 10 years. And about 15% ended up buying their own company.

One of them is Yvonne van Dormael, owner at YVD, which she founded in 2006. She started out her career in the family business until at the age of 35 she decided to take several management positions in other family businesses. These experiences contributed to founding her own company in order to help family businesses and SMEs grow to the next level. If the opportunity is there, she also likes to participate in the companies she’s involved in. A few years ago, together with a Belgian investment fund, she acquired a Dutch fashion brand. Her experience has taught her that it’s of great importance to understand the cultural DNA of the target you’re interested in.

Video still 10 + 1 tips - Yvonne van Dormael

Understanding the culture of your target company

Via her own company YVD, Yvonne van Dormael helps family businesses and SMEs grow to the next level. If the opportunity is there, she also likes to participate in the companies she’s involved in. And her experience has taught her that it’s of great importance to understand the cultural DNA of the target you’re interested in.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

1/ When growth has never been an intentional goal for the vendors when they led the company, aligning the team with your business plan might be difficult. Changing the culture from ‘successful by accident’ to ‘ambition-driven’ will be challenging and often takes time. Especially when the vendor has promised the team that ‘nothing will change

after their exit’. Lots of low hanging fruits can be a red flag for a non-ambitious team attitude.

2/ Be aware that corporate culture is much more than the daily atmosphere in the office. The atmosphere might feel right, but what motivation will you find behind that relaxed, non-hierarchical culture? Make sure to interview existing and former staff to understand the culture of the company.

3/ If vendors remain involved, it will be essential to understand their mindset.

  • Do the vendors understand and endorse the intentions of the new owners? Be open about your plan for the future so the vendors will commit to your strategy and support it towards the team members and all other stakeholders.
  • Will they let go of their baby, and do they truly wish for the new owners to be successful in the next step? A vendor who stays involved can make or break your success. Have her/him commit to your plans.
  • Hire a coach for you and the vendor that stays on board. It might be the secret to your success.

Eager for more inspiration and insights on how to become successful when pursuing entrepreneurship through acquisition? Then download our white paper with 10 tips for buying your own company.

Get in touch!

Miguel Meuleman

Miguel Meuleman

Full Professor