Peter Lyall | The Role of Marketing Communications Within M&A

On this week’s episode of M&A Masters, we’re joined by special guest, Peter Lyall, Group Director of Strategy at Fifth Ring, a marketing-communications company with locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They promote the ultra-simple message of helping B2B companies sell more stuff and build better brands. Peter’s goal during this episode is to shed some light on the role of MarComm during M&A transactions and to explain why this is often a blind spot during the acquisition process.

“There are quite a few skeptics about the role of MarComm within an M&A transaction, even to the point of saying that the brand isn’t important,” says Peter. “So, I did a little experiment: In a room of 50-60 people, I asked everybody to put up their hands if they had chosen their wristwatch because of the brand. They all had. Then I asked them if they’d chosen their car because of the brand. They all had. These people were very brand savvy, but couldn’t quite transition this thought, this appeal, this attraction of a brand, from the consumer environment to the B2B environment, which is where they’re living on a day to day basis.”

We chat in detail about:

  • Legacy issues and the challenge they pose to marcomms post-acquisition
  • Implementing cultural values and brand messaging
  • Utilizing employees as brand ambassadors in messaging
  • Why cultural integration is a blind spot in M&A
  • Structuring multi-brand portfolios
  • The power of 3— Where 3 words can change everything
  • The future of energy
  • New tools to measure the intangible
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth, President of Rubicon M&A Insurance Services. Welcome to M&A Masters where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions. And we’re all about one thing here, that’s a clean exit for owners, founders, and their investors.

Today I’m joined by Peter Lyall, Group Director of Strategy of Fifth Ring. Fifth Ring is a Marketing Communications Company, which today we call the lingo is MarComm. So Fifth Ring is a MarComm company with locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They’re ultra simple messages. We help B2B companies sell more stuff and build better brands. And at essence, I can’t think of a clearer message to be out there for B2B companies. I’m pleased to have Peter join me today to discuss what I believe is a true blind spot in M&A, which is marketing, brands, and cultural integration challenges pre and post-acquisition. Peter, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining me today.

Peter Lyall: Patrick, thank you very much for your kind invitation. It’s a pleasure to join you.

Patrick: Oh, Peter, before we get into Fifth Ring and talking about this blind spot for M&A integration, why don’t we set the table for our audience, tell us about you. What got you to this point in your career?

Peter: Well, it’s quite a long story. I have been in marketing services since about 1980. When I graduated from university, I started life wanting to be a journalist, but couldn’t find a job. So as a writer worked my way through advertising agencies in London, and eventually, with a few people, we set up our own agency. And actually, an early theme that came through for me was at a certain level, agencies are not considered on a par with professional services, companies. They’re nice people to be around. But when you’ve got really big important decisions to make that they can wait. So slightly tempered by that I went off to Henley Business School to do an MBA, which I did in the 90s. And then I came back to Aberdeen, where I’m from Aberdeen and northeast of Scotland, and eventually joined an agency here, which, as you say, has representation around the world. And that was really one of the attractions for me, was the international. In fact, when I worked in London, I kind of walked to clients. But now, well, not now, of course, because of COVID. But traditionally, I would be flying all over the place to service client needs. Armed with an MBA and an advertising agency background, I did a stint in management consultancy as well, in a firm just outside Oxford. And I’ve been at Fifth Ring for about 15 years, shareholder and director. And I think particularly interesting from the perspective of this audience. Our business was acquired in 2016 by a private family business media company in the northeast of Scotland. So I know what it’s like to be as an observer and a participant. And I think that gives an extra insight into the topic.

Patrick: Well, that’s that’s something Peter, the helpful thing is, is you’ve been on both sides of the negotiating table. So I know you’ve walked in everyone’s shoes. So it’s great to have your perspective on this. Fifth Ring, tell me about that. What is it? What does it do? And I think the best way to kind of describe your firm is, and I asked this to a lot of my guests. How did you come up with the name? I mean, unlike other firms and insurance firms, most of them, just named them as the founder’s last names, which is really boring. There’s no creativity there. So go ahead and give us the story about Fifth Ring.

Peter: Well, we certainly ought to have some creativity about that since that’s what we sell. I wasn’t there at the time. The business was set up in 1991. I joined in 2005. But the two individuals one of whom is CEO today, Ian Ord, and the previous owner, Cliff Kohler there. They came up with the name or classic agency founded in a kitchen table scenario. Ian was very experienced in the highly competitive individual and martial arts, martial arts, sorry. And in that sphere, there is a book by a gentleman called Miyamoto Musashi. It’s called the book of five rings. It is worth a read in its own right. Yes, it’s about martial arts, but there are lessons in there for general living discipline as part of that, but also Indeed, for management as well. And there are five books, ground wind, fire and water and you might say that they are acquainted maybe to the left brain side of one psyche, which is that the organized things that you have to do, you have to have a sharp knife, you have to know your competition, you have to be prepared, you have to be properly fed and watered. These are the things that any martial arts exponent, any businessman, any human being has mastered the basics in place.

But then there’s the fifth book, which is called the void. And this is about intuition and flair and imagination and perhaps going against the trend and, and perhaps putting that to one side, all the sensible things to do, and taking a flyer. So he and Cliff decided, it’s the fifth book that matters. It’s the void, hence Fifth Ring. And so that gives you an insight about where the name came from, in terms of what we do. And we’ll come back to your comment on building brands and selling stuff later. But so we were Scotland’s first integrated marketing communications agency, which means that instead of just being a creative agency, or a media buying agency, or strategy, or planning or digital, we actually have all the services in house, which was a first, so I run the consultancy bit, but the front end piece in terms of establishing at a high level what businesses want to do.

And then in house, we have designers, we have writers, we have digital experts, we have PR people who can take an idea and then distribute it through all the various channels. And that service, of having the integrated offering doesn’t appeal to everybody, we do sell bits of it, for those that just want bits of it. But not only can we deliver it locally, but we can deliver it regionally and internationally. And that’s what gives us our edge.

And the second thing and the significant thing is, knowing what you do is doing it selectively, and we set out our stole very early on to focus on the energy sector, Aberdeen being an oil and gas center, but also our bases in Houston in Texas, Singapore, in Southeast Asia, we were in Dubai, we moved out of Dubai, we just find it too difficult a place to do business. But we have a discreet offering for a select marketplace. A marketplace, it has to be said that goes through peaks and troughs. And we’ve followed that ourselves as well. But when it’s up, it’s up when it’s done, then a diversified portfolio is essential. And so we do move outside the energy space at times as well.

Patrick: Let’s talk about marketing communications and consultancy services. Because this is where we can touch on the blind spot that I saw, because of direct your services toward mergers and acquisitions, that activity where you’re engaged by companies that are looking to buy and what you provide, because there are all types of service providers out there providing tangible, measurable items, valuation, accounting services, compliance services, you know, legal services, all of those things out there. And on paper, all of those services added up could make a deal look really good on paper. And yet the best deal on paper with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake doesn’t work. And this is you know where you come in. So let’s talk about that those types of services that you do.

Peter: Yes, it is fascinating. And, and to some extent, it’s by happenstance, but we are very experienced in the M&A field, primarily because of the energy industry, and by that, I’m fundamentally talking about upstream oil and gas is the sector that spends a lot of time buying and selling companies. And we have benefited from that.

Because of course, as they buy and sell companies, so they buy and sell brands. And what is fascinating about this, and I have yet to get a great explanation from the financiers is they will pay a premium price for a brand. And yet when you quiz them and say so how are we going to manage that brand? Or how are we going to look after? How are we going to care for it? How are we going to nurture it? How are we going to look after the people that created it, it’s almost dismissed as “Hang on a sec, don’t worry about that we’ve got the numbers to worry about.” So there is this fascinating dichotomy between paying a premium for something I’ll give you a little insight into this we rebranded an organization, a global organization based out of Southeast Asia many years ago. And there are quite a few skeptics in the audience about the whole role of marketing communications within this M&A this within this transaction. And they even to the point of saying the brand isn’t important. Let’s not worry about that right now. And I did a little experiment I asked everybody to put up their hands if they had chosen that wristwatch because of the brand, no, about 50 or 60 people in the room, and they all had, and I asked them if they chose their car because of the brand. And they all had. And this is a mix of financiers and engineers. And then I asked them about their clothing, what kind of suits were being worn. And they were all branded suits.

And so actually, as human beings, these people were very seriously brand savvy, they wouldn’t be seen dead in a Skoda when they could actually have an Audi. They had to have a Gucci suit, most of them are wearing Omega watches. But they couldn’t quite transition this thought, this appeal, this attraction of a brand, from the consumer environment to the B2B environment, which is where they earn their living on a day to day basis.

And once we were able to convince them that that’s where it actually matters as much, then we got some real advocates and supporters to the process. So there is the environment in which we operate, the services that we provide there for our and usually, it’s after the event, and we’ll come on to that, why it should be before the event later. But after the event, people say, “Well, we’ve now got an extra half a dozen brands in our portfolio, how should we manage them? Do some actually compete with brands we’ve already got? Don’t quite know how that happened. What should we do about that?” We have several stories to tell the old story, the new story, a story for our staff, our story for our customers, our story for our suppliers, how should we evolve that story? How should we tell it? So this idea of coming to the event afterward, is always fascinating for us? Because we will then start asking questions such as so when you started thinking about this deal? What sort of story did you have in mind? And quite often it is? Well, we weren’t really thinking about that. We were just thinking about doing the deal.

Patrick: Buying spasm?

Peter: Yeah. And it’s like, well, Wasn’t there a strategy which said, We need market expansion, or we need to kill a competitor? Or we need market penetration? Or we need new technology? Or we need that hotspot of technological or innovation? Wasn’t there something? Yeah, yeah, yeah, Yes, there was. Okay, can you articulate it simply? No, but we’ve got a 200 page due to diligence document as to why we’re going to increase market share in Kazakhstan or wherever happens to be.

So that this is the fascinating bit we then have to pick up the pieces that they are there, the pieces, we have to pick them up and say so you did this because, because, because you saw an opportunity here, there’s a new audience, an expanded audience, perhaps you can bring more products to your existing customers, whatever it happens to be, we get it now. Okay, there is a rationale there. Right, we will help you articulate that story into something meaningful.

So that’s a good case scenario. For us, it’s not the perfect one. Because the perfect one we’d like to be in before the deal is made advising people saying, “Well, if you’re going to buy that brand, you realize you’re going to complicate your existing story, you’re going to actually have complications within your brand portfolio.” Again, I’m sure we’ll come on to that later. But that gives you an insight into the role that we play.

And of course, just to supplement that we have to be perceived as peers at this point. Because we might be giving some pretty strong, no admonishments, but pretty strong advice to clients, which is, you know, you’ve created a problem for yourself here, don’t you? And we do it with a smile. And we, you know, we’re advisors at the end of the day, and they can choose to ignore our advice, of course, but it’s this idea of taking the role of bits, which you might have expected to be better thought through, and then turning them into an articulate, compelling, interesting story, and then disseminating that story.

And just to add to that, Patrick, an interesting bit is quite often you get a sense, they want to tell the world first, but actually, they forget to tell their own people that sometimes, and it is and seems like the obvious thing, but we stress in B2B marketing communications activity has to be from the inside out. And we learned this from one particular major international oilfield services company that was represented in 46. companies. It had 26,000 people working for it when we did this project. And the client said You know what, we have about 170 clients around the world that we’re interested in, and we have 26,000 people. So we’re here to make sure that we use our army of people to tell our customers our new story. Rather than going straight to the market, putting out press releases whatever it happens to be. So that’s, that, that gives you a bit of an insight into the role we play and the timing of that in the process,

Patrick: From our prior conversation, you had a great analogy where you were talking about how most of the parties you deal with were 90% engineers, or very objective, tangible decision-makers, and so forth. And however, most of their decisions they don’t make on an objective basis. They make it from instinct. Let’s talk about that real quick.

Peter: Yes, it is nice. And it used to irritate me, but no, I actually find it quite entertaining. But yeah, as you say, in the oil and gas space, the concept of having a marketing department is relatively new. And so and even if it’s well established, it’s probably populated with engineers by training. And certainly the C suite individuals, always the CEO, probably got a strong engineering background. And they take a meticulous and analytical and, you know, very thorough view of everything that comes across their desk.

But if we put a creative piece of work, an advertising campaign or design of a new website, or whatever, and say, This is what you should do, because and we will base it on the data and the Allison, the discovery work that we’ve done, we may get feedback, which is why I don’t like it by Well, I don’t like red. Okay, well, that’s fascinating, but it’s irrelevant. So we’ve had to find a way of getting around this and, and it’s okay. And we and we do it with a smile and the clients do. But you’re right, that there is this sense that somehow when it gets into that creative space, the typical persona evaporates. And this somewhat more flighty and individual with personality and emotion. So it comes to the fore, and that’s fine. But it is, it did take a bit of getting used to that for sure.

Patrick: I think you’re familiar with that you realize and appreciate that people are going to act, particularly when they’re stepping out of their comfort zone, they’re going to be acting on instinct, and dissipate that and you bring that through, which I think is always helpful. And that’s what you know, professionals do now is they realize the limitations of what they know and don’t know, and they’ll, they’ll reach out to other places. And that just helps them, you know, lower the learning curve. And flatten that out so they can get to, you know, proper execution.

I again, I think this is, it sounds a little simplistic, but when you consider there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, that you want to get it right, and we’re on the insurance side, and we want to make sure that things, you know, go well, otherwise, we’re gonna have to pay a big, big claim check. If some of these issues are thought about and anticipated, then you’re gonna have a much more successful outcome down the road, that’s good for all parties. Peter, can you give us an example, you would mention one where you know the very large energy company, but give us a quick little case study on what you did with a particular client?

Peter: Yeah, I think dealing with legacy issues brought about by mergers and acquisitions is very typical,

Patrick: It’s universal.

Peter: Yeah. And it’s often stimulated by leadership change, I would say or ownership, you investors, whatever it is, and they will look at a company which has grown up probably quite successfully by buying competitors by buying by expanding its portfolio, and it wakes up one morning and goes, this is a bag of nails. We can’t explain this to anybody. We’ve got this business, we’ve got that business, we’ve got the same service being offered in different territories, but with different names. We need to sort this out so that anybody can understand it quickly. Whether that’s a potential future investor, whether that is a potential new recruit new member of staff, whether it is a new customer, multiple stakeholders, of course.

So we did a major exercise for a global exercise again, for an oil and gas contracting business, who had got themselves into this exact state. They’d been involved in many joint ventures over the years, they had allowed their local marketeers to be quite flexible with how the actual brand was presented when they started dipping their toes into renewables, and then they had a wind farm operation. The actual logo appeared in green in one place. So this is a major corporate and so it’s a mess. So our job is to tidy it up. And of course, with the mess, often comes internal territorial battles, you know, I exist, I have power because I have a logo, you know what I’m going to say, you are a member of this organization, you may be a head of a division, but it’s, it’s the corporate brand that matters.

So you have to deal with that sense of taking away from people. So you’ve got a number of sides on it, you’ve got to do this quite subtly. You’ve got to engage people, we do a lot of interviews, a lot of focus groups, how did the situation get to be as it is? What was the rationale? What was the justification? How would you envisage change, because what we’re going to have, ultimately, is probably what we call a monolithic brand, which is just the brand, and no subsidiary names, no house of brands? And so it’s involving it’s collaborative. In this particular case of this company, they were very good at that. I think we did 70 interviews around the world, we did two quantitative surveys of all 26,000 individuals. So you really get a sense of how something happened, why it happened, what people would think about in terms of options for change, then it is our job as creative people to say to the client, this is what good looks like, in order to meet your corporate vision and your corporate strategy, you now have to present your brand in this way, in our belief, as experts in the field, that is always subject to some debate, you know, whether it’s logo style, whether it’s colorwise, whether it’s a visual presentation, whatever it is, people will have a view. And that’s fine. And we accept that.

That’s a fairly standard process. Enjoys, you know, good success doing that. And then you get to a point of decision, which is yes, we are going to structure our brand portfolio in this way, we’re not going to have a mess anymore. It’s going to be clean, neat, tidy, structured, you can see at a glance, this company is endorsed by the holding company, for example, or you can see at a glance, because of the way the colors, look that we’re all part of the same family, there is a semblance that there is a unity. And it could be in all sorts of different ways. That’s all relatively straightforward. The next bit comes to the implementation. And this is, again, hard. Because and this particular instance, remember when we completed the implementation, the big boss said, but what about the ships? Weren’t we going to repaint them? And we said, boss, we decided, as you had 26 ships in your fleet, it might be too big a deal to repaint them. And his response was, Oh, no, maybe it would have been nice to repaint them.

So, you never quite know. But anyway, getting back to the point of implementation, and there’s the hard side of it, which is uniforms, signage, anything that represents the organization can be rebranded physically, relatively straightforward. You can choose to do overnight and spend a lot of time and money on it. Or you can take a more of a replacement point of view. And behind that, is, of course, the culture of it. Those people that were in an acquired business that grew up being Company X, and know their company, why they have loyalties to what, where does their corporate story come from? Where does their understanding of what matters, what gets them out of bed in the morning, they’re suddenly being asked to package that away, forget about it, and think about this, and be really focused on something new and different? And of course, that’s hard.

We talk about change quite glibly, I think as everybody hates change, which we actually fundamentally disagree with that a lot of people are crying out for change. But what they don’t like is a bad change. So are loosely implemented or half-done changes. So you have to have a really thorough way of internally managing the messaging. Going back to the focus groups, going back to the people you spoke to say, this is how it’s going to be this is why we need your help. To share the story. We need your help as brand ambassadors as advocates, as powerful, influential people to take the story and that cultural bit.

It’s the bit that never gets discussed in the deal-making. At least they may do but not in my experience. It’s the bit where the people from different organizations are brought close together and expected to work together, they don’t even know each other. And they’re expected to represent an organization and work together. And so it’s fundamentally, it’s hard. And it takes time. And it has to be done in a very clear and concise way of people speaking to people and explaining and explaining and making no assumptions. And the best example that we’ve seen, of the clients that we’ve had over the years, is a business that acquired businesses regularly. And they had it so slick, they actually had an implementation team, it was made up usually about 8 or 10 workstreams, from the basics of integrating ERP systems, to you know, that the softer skills, a bit of cultural integration. And if, if there was a lesson that we’ve learned, and which I would share it is, that’s the way to do it. And be absolutely clear that if you want someone on the front line, to represent your brand, you better tell them what you want them to do, rather than just sending them an email and hope they pick it up. And just to conclude on this piece, the message that we’ve sent to clients over the years is, if you want someone in the frontline, to know your news story, to understand your brand, you got to tell them seven times, in seven different ways.

Patrick: So the cultural integration is one of those blind spots. And a lot of people keep thinking about that as an HR issue. And where you have clashes of cultures, where you may have a formally dressed office versus somebody that affirms that as everybody’s in casual clothes, and so forth. And that’s not just the dress, it’s just the people who have had a mission to accomplish. And they believe in their firm now that our mission is changed from an acquisition. And so always, you know, getting them to buy in because the most I think the most important thing with business is, it’s not the shareholders of a company. Now for the publicly traded companies. It’s not that is first of all your people. And then secondly is taking care of the customers, the people that are buying your goods and services. And if they’re not taking care of that, that’s going to kill you.

And the best way, fastest way to do that is taken, you know, get your people on a mission, take very good care of them. So they have no fear, and then they move forward and take care of your customers. And then your customers end up buying more. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. You know, it’s one of those things for coming together. But one of the things you mentioned that I definitely want to touch on is, is giving a message a simple message to the people, you have to tell them seven times. Okay, and seven different messaging, I think what you guys do is essential, and I think is a great value add that you have where you make it ultra simple. And I’ll read back again what yours is. For Fifth Ring B2B companies sell more stuff and build better brands. No wasted words. They’re a very simple concept direct everything. Okay. Talk about not only just being creative, but why is so essential to have not just a message but a simple message?

Peter: Well, it’s a great question, Patrick, and I’ll give you two sides of this, one from the front line. You know, I come from an MBA background, I read all the books, read Harvard Business Review, I speak the highfalutin language of the consultant. And I can tell you the difference between a vision and a mission and a strategy and a value proposition. And I can actually provide words for all these different things. And so can all my colleagues.

And I think what was a real eye-opener for me is we’ve taken a logistics firm, which specializes in oil and gas, needless to say, through a rebrand, given them a new story, we’ve done the cultural integration, we actually used actors to do roleplay and scenarios, which was a great way of getting that cultural piece aligned. And as it happens, we ran an event where there are prizes given and as a supplier to them, we were encouraged to give a prize. And we were given a prize for playing golf. And I took three guys from the company to play golf. And these are pretty frontline individuals. They worked on the docks, shipping, you know, crane operators, loading ships, moving stuff offshore. And I asked them as we’re playing golf, so what do you make of the new vision? I don’t know about that. But what about the mission? Yeah, I saw I saw a video about that there was a book that wasn’t there. You don’t know anything about that. So what do you think of the three words strategic principle that we came up with? What was that? So it was called “Trust well placed”. “Oh, I like that.” Well, yeah. Why’d you like it? “It’s what I do. My job is to people trust me, and I make sure that things are placed in the right place, and then they go on the boat. And then they get to the rig. And that’s, you know, yeah, I can go with that.” And, and so we were able to succinctly, in three words articulate the entire strategy for this organization “Trust well placed”. It’s not, it’s not an easy thing to do.

And that’s kind of one of the benchmarks out there. And you think, “Well, okay, it takes a hell of a lot of creativity and imagination to come up with these things.” But it has to be linked back to the strategy. So that’s why we think simple messages really resonate with staff. But the other area, which is pertinent to what we’re talking about today, of course, is M&A. And the investor community, God bless them, doesn’t have much time. So it, it believes it has to understand instantly, what a business is all about to make some kind of rapid decision as to whether or not this is an interesting opportunity. I actually think that’s a little bit unfair. And of course, they do have to do the due diligence and look under the hood and test it and poke it and all the rest of it. But if you can articulate quickly, and simply what your business is about, you’ve got a far better chance of resonating with the different stakeholder audiences that you have. And so the history behind building brands and selling stuff from a differing point of view was that we were just using this internally. You know, guys, what do we do on a Monday morning, we get up, we go build some brands, and we said, go sell some stuff on behalf of our clients. And we started using it in a quite lacs way in front of clients. And they quite liked it. They said, Well, yeah, yeah. Could you do that for us? And we said, well, yeah. But that’s it’s a bit casual, isn’t it? casual? Yes. But we understand what it means. So then we started using it externally, then it finds its way onto his website. And now we’re even thinking about what does that means for job titles and roles? and other things fundamentals within the organization? Could we have ahead of selling stuff? You know, would that be the right thing to do. So it is permeated right into our business because as you rightly say, it matters to customers, they get it. And of course, from a marketing communications point of view, we’ve never been in a better place to help people sell stuff because we have the strategies, we have the tools. But above all, we now have the technology to micro-target, to demonstrate return on investment, to show through all sorts of new modern, sophisticated marketing automation ways that if you identify the right people, if you approach them in the right way, you can actually turn them into a qualified lead. And that’s why selling stuff is so significant in B2B.

I would say as a footnote to that, there is still a huge place for personal relationship-oriented selling. And, you know, some of the contracts that our customers are selling are massive, you know, 10s of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars. So they’re not going to do that online. But they can find new audiences new opportunities online.

Patrick: Then, of course, they bring in the experts, the technical experts, the strategic experts to convince that particular prospect of why it’s a good idea. But we would like to take this even further and link our remuneration to our performance. So getting away from fees, and into well, we produce that amount of reward for that business, we want to share of that reward. And that we think is the way our industry will go. Right.

It removes the risk. At least mitigate that mitigates the risk, because that’s always the concern when you’re making a spend on something as particularly creative marketing type expenditures, because there are too many stories out there of decisions made spend a lot of dollars and didn’t get the return that they had hoped. And I think if you link in a successful model there then you’re both working together. So I think that’s a great trend. Peter, what do you see in the M&A trends wise, from your perspective, how do you think things are going? Or what do you see from where you are?

Peter: I think the interesting arena for us. And this week has been christened and “BP Week,” because of the amount of news coverage that they’re getting. But we’re in what we call the energy transition. Now, the reliance on hydrocarbons is changing the growth of renewables is obviously here. And now. Have we reached the tipping point, no? Will we start using oil and gas tomorrow? No. But from an M&A point of view, and what we’re interested in is, what will happen to those smaller businesses that are currently in the renewable space? How will the big oil companies, the big oil operators, manage to bring them into their portfolios? And we’ve already seen a deal done with BP buying some of Ecuador’s renewables assets in the last few weeks? So so things are happening? So the under-recognized brands in the renewable space at the moment, because it’s still a relatively new arena. What role will they play as they add value to the portfolio of established oil and gas companies going forward? Will they add anything? Will their brands have value as they transition over? Or will they fundamentally just disappear? That’s going to be really interesting to see for us.

Patrick: One thing about Fifth Ring, you develop your reputation and your experiences in that sector, that oil and gas sector and I think it’s helpful that you were very, very focused on industry but you’re not locked into that certainly, you can get into other industries as well, I think was significant for credibility wise for filtering is you’re working with deals that were in the billions of dollars, and you had organizations with billion-dollar checks being written, they trusted you. So if they can trust you, a lot of other industries should have no problem with your credibility in delivering on on a promise. Talk about who your ideal client is, and what Fifth Ring is looking for?

Peter: Well, that’s a great question. And we discuss it a lot ourselves of course, in terms of who that actual ideal individual would be. And I say individual quite deliberately because we like to deal with the CEO. So that means it’s not going to be a massive, massive organization, it’ll be big, this individual will be quite enlightened, they will have an open mind to marketing, marketing communications and branding, they probably have some experience of it already. They won’t consider themselves an expert in the field, but they will know that it’s important. It’s probably an international organization, it’s probably going through a bit of flux and a bit of change. And probably got some new investment, maybe even a new leadership team. It’s ambitious, it’s in a hurry. It’s not afraid to be challenged, it’s quite demanding. It realizes the value of people, it doesn’t look at our staff in any particular way, just because they happen to be young, or ethnic, or female, or whatever it is, they’ve got a very open, transparent view of diversity. You know, I thought, that’s really I know, it’s quite topical. And I’m, could be accused of just saying this, but actually, I’m not, you know, it’s quite normal for us to employ young people. And so we want senior people in the client-side, to take these young people seriously. So that so that’s important to us. That’s another thing in the ideal client, I think they also have to be willing to take a little bit of risk. And when we come to them with an idea, and we say, you know, you might want to think twice about this, but it really could work. And they all go on, you know, what’s the downside? What’s the worst that could happen? So we quite like that. And also, ultimately, and I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way. But there should be an element of fun about this. You know, the last eight months have not been particularly fun, worldwide for the obvious reason. But actually, if we collaboratively can have a bit of fun, creating a new position for a brand creating a new story, seeing it engage people seeing it drive new business, and you can look back on it later, you know, that we enjoy doing that. What why wouldn’t that be something that you would actually look for in the perfect client?

Patrick: You know, I just think that you know, as a father of two, you never get your kids working harder or expending more energy other than when they’re having fun. They’re having fun. It’s Unlimited, that type of stuff. So I think that’s a great element out there. That that can be there. And while you’re based in Scotland, Fifth Ring has a US presence to multiple offices with headquarters in Houston. And you’re eligible for companies and firms worldwide. So across the United States, correct?

Peter: It is. And I personally have done a lot of work in Houston. I know it’s a cliche, but cliches usually have a bit of truth. In fact, that’s why they become cliches. But there is an entrepreneurialism that we notice amongst the techs and clientele that we work with. There is a willingness to give things a try. They like process, of course. But there is a sense. “Yeah, okay, come on. Let’s see what we can do.” And I’m not saying that it’s not the case with our European business or Southeast Asian business either. But that there is a sense, it’s, there’s an informality as well, which we like, it’s often quite difficult at the first meeting to work out who the big boss is, you know, the dress code, couldn’t sell them be a giveaway, you know, that there is a sense of not necessarily equality, but collaboration and entrepreneurialism. But funnily enough in the M&A space, we have seen plenty of successes and failures in Houston. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. And being part of that. The business environment is stimulating to say the least.

Patrick: Well, Peter, how can our audience members, many are in Houston, but they’re also across the country. How can our audience members and our listeners find you?

Peter: We have, of course, a website, which is constantly evolving and changing, very simple address is And you will find a lot of good stories and information and background about us there. If you want to speak to me, and I have a very simple email address, which is We have a simple recruitment policy, which is only one Peter. So that’s me. I think we have lots We had lots of Stephanies for a while. So we do actually use surnames as well in our email addresses. But there’s only one, Peter.

I think that that this is a fascinating topic is it really has meaning that you’re absolutely spot on of you Patrick to realize that it’s a talking point, I know deep down that the investor community, the financiers, the bankers, the lawyers, they know this, they just occasionally need to be reminded that the cultural aspect, the branding aspect, the communications aspect, really is significant.

And if there was one thing that people did want to get in touch to talk about, because we know that this tangible, intangible dichotomy is something that matters, we actually created a dashboard to try and put some of these softer, intangible things into the mix in the pre-deal phase. And so we’ve got some insight and ideas on that, that could be helpful to try and say to people, there is a metric by which you can test culture, see how it changes, and turn it the way that you want it to be over time. So that might be a topic for further conversation.

Patrick: I appreciate you being here today. Because when you think about the M&A community, and it’s not shrinking, you’ve got thousands of private equity firms, you have thousands of family offices, you have thousands of strategic acquirers out there. And now we have the emergence of SPACs, special purpose acquisition companies, and they are doing IPOs, at least 20 to 30 new SPACs are coming the last four months consecutively. So we have all these buyers out here.

How is the target to distinguish other than price? How are they going to distinguish one buyer from another? And I think that if you really wanted to separate your organization from the rest of the pack, you come in with something that’s different and I think this is why if you can address blind spots and culture I think is really big, but this puts the dollars and the motivation with the culture there with the integration, the brand that the target is always going to want their legacy to move forward or to be elevated. And that’s something you deliver.

And I think that you know, particularly for the SPAC market which we can embrace immediately. This is a great way to differentiate yourself from a lot of the other others out there. And so I really appreciate what you have. And I recommend anybody to reach out to Peter and his team, they’ve got a fabulous story. And what’s more importantly, they’re going to help you create your story, which will close deals that will save you 10s, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. So it’s a pleasure for me to be able to provide that kind of thing to the community. So Peter, thank you very much for that.

Peter: Right. Well, that’s kind of you, Patrick, I would just conclude to add to that point that you made, we saw this opportunity quite vividly about a year ago. So we are now working with a management consultancy firm in Houston a company called Carnrite, jointly. So they help businesses through the hard bit of the M&A the advice, the transition, the transformation, the implementation, and then we support in parallel on the communication and brand matters that go with it. And so we’re working under the joint title of walk the talk, they, help you do the walking, we Fifth Ring help you do the talking. It’s resonating pretty well, but it does go into the heart of what you just said about finding a point of differentiation.

Patrick: Well, thank you very much, Peter. You got to find a three-word slogan for the Rubicon next.

Peter: Thank you so much. We’ll do our very best. Thank you, Patrick.



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