From a business perspective, acquisitions are largely transactional endeavors. But there’s also a human element that can play an important role.
When the principals from two woman-owned, Chicago-based agencies engaged in early discussions last year, the synergies between their two companies became evident. What they may not have expected was how the human element would influence their decisions: One to buy. The other to sell.
The Owner of Motion, Kimberly Eberl, and former Owner of acquired b2b agency 2.718 Marketing, Liz Brohan, recently had a chance to reflect on their decision to come together, and how their transaction will continue transforming the way we work.
Motion: We’re excited to talk with Kim Eberl and Liz Brohan today about how Motion and 2.718 Marketing came to join forces. Liz, let’s start with you. As the CEO of 2.718 Marketing, what was the number one trait you were looking for when considering the sale of your agency?
Liz: I’ve enjoyed partnerships with other woman executives throughout my time as a business owner. There was always something special about how we collaborated, thought through challenges together, led our teams, and achieved results for our clients. We also would play to each other’s strengths, dividing and conquering the operational needs of running the business.
When my business partner retired in 2019, it left a hole. Truth be told, I missed her. And when I thought about the next chapter, which included selling the business, it was important to me to find another woman-owned agency.
Then I met Kim, and our conversations revealed we had similar styles and points of view. We agreed on important issues about developing business, creating exceptional work, and driving growth. Our interactions all had a familiar, like-minded quality to them. It felt good to me, and it felt right.
Values Alignment: Moving Clients and Careers Forward
Motion: I’ve heard you both use the word “kismet” to describe the fit between your two agencies. Kim, what led you to the decision to acquire 2.718?
Kim: I was equally excited about the kinship I developed with Liz, and at the same time was beginning to visualize the business opportunities. How we complemented one another, and what our combined teams would be capable of. And I felt good about the possibilities because of an alignment of values.
Like Motion, the team at 2.718 was always exploring what they could be doing better. They understood how continuous improvement contributes to growth – not just for the agency and its clients, but for their personal careers.
I also recognized a strong entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of both agencies. Everyone was personally empowered to lead their clients to the best of their ability, but always with results in mind. Like us, they were big proponents of using data, research and strategic thinking to advance their clients’ business goals. And to do it with the autonomy to succeed.
Even better, I saw that their culture was driven. Their teams had initiative and staff were proactive about developing their talents and skills. It was clear that everyone felt empowered to create their own path forward in driving client success.
Woman-Owned Sensibilities Have Changed the Way We Work
Motion: Do you think some of the synergies in values you’ve noted are due to both firms being woman-owned businesses?
Kim: Yes and no. I conduct business as any owner would. I strive to lead an agency dedicated to solving business and marketing challenges, delivering exceptional work, and contributing to the growth of the clients we serve. Not as a woman, but as the owner of a growing and successful agency.
And as the CEO, I’m also focused on the agency’s vision and mission, and making strategic business decisions to keep us competitive. What’s unique, perhaps, because I’m a woman, is HOW I do all of that. I’m highly collaborative…relying on a strong leadership team to provide me with the research, data, perspectives and insights I need to make the best decisions I can. I’m not an island. I truly value knowledge sharing and informed decision-making, bringing different people into the conversation to get their perspective, so I can keep us moving forward.
Liz: I agree with Kim. And while gender is often irrelevant to success, over the years I’ve seen women bring culture-building skills to corporate environments that leads to stronger, better outcomes. Programs and policies such as career nurturing, employee wellness, work/life balance, and active listening all fuel career development and job satisfaction.
Most of these practice areas have been successfully adopted by business leaders and owners in some form or fashion, regardless of gender. And we’ve all seen how they can contribute to a stronger company; one that is well-equipped to better retain both employees and clients in the long term. And I believe women in leadership have more often been champions for the progress we’ve seen in these important areas.
Meeting Needs in a Fast-Paced Market Demands Action
Liz: I think it’s important to add that I’m impressed by Kim’s hyper-proactivity in meeting market demands. She has a keen understanding of the key services and emerging technologies necessary to allow her team and clients to remain out in front.
Motion: Kim, would say that is a key driver in your acquisition strategy?
Kim: Absolutely. We all know how anxious our clients are to be in-market quickly, for example. So I’m always looking for ways to expand our talent pool and service offerings so we can accelerate the impact we’re having on our clients’ businesses and growth trajectories. I’m also always keeping an eye on “what’s next,” keeping in mind the pace of today’s world, and knowing clients will always have this insatiable need for speed.
Liz: I couldn’t agree more. So many clients today feel behind the 8-ball. They’re pressed for time. They need things yesterday. They’re also, more than ever, focused on the ROI. So…things like performance marketing, digital analytics, and results are becoming critical to a healthy partnership. Being able to shore up important areas, like digital marketing and data-driven analytics, enables us to not just keep pace but excel at what we do for our clients.
Motion: We really appreciate you both sharing your thoughts on the acquisition. And we invite our readers to drop us a note or get in touch if they’d like to learn more about any of the topics discussed herein.