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When business meets drama: M&A lessons from Corrie

Coronation Street Sign

I was delighted to receive an unexpected call a year ago from a researcher who works on Coronation Street, the British soap opera institution that’s been running for over 60 years.

It’s well known for its varied, meaty and colourful storylines. 

Several recent plot lines have had a strong business slant.

Long-term character Jenny Connor has sold the iconic Rovers Return pub, which involved negotiating with the buyer, and sensitively navigating relationships with the staff.

In another storyline, Ed and Ronnie Bailey, brothers running a property development company together, bought some land they planned to develop on, but the discovery of a body led to their investors getting cold feet with significant cost implications for the Baileys. 

Ronnie also faced a business headache when Ed gambled away all their company’s money. As a result, Ronnie wanted to walk away from the partnership and make sure Ed couldn’t profit from the business in the future.

The Coronation Street writers always want to ensure their storylines are realistic as well as entertaining, so they bring in relevant experts to advise them before the scripts are finalised and released to the actors.

To help them with the storylines above, they Googled ‘best business consultant’, appraised a number of websites, including mine, and decided to choose me! 

The researcher told me that the deciding factor was my extensive real world business experience, including with Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A).

Fact and fiction

I’ve really enjoyed advising the Coronation Street team. The characters might be fictional but the scenarios they deal with are just the same as in real life.

We go through the processes involved in relevant business deals, and the options of how various plot choices would influence the storylines’ future direction. I’ve also been advising on the right terminology and tone of voice likely to be used in a business context.

And it’s fascinating to be involved behind the scenes, seeing how storylines are created, and how the writers keep a delicate balance between reality and drama, keeping the viewers in the zone of ‘suspension of disbelief’.

Thank you, Ollie Adewusi (one of the Coronation Street team), for your kind words:

“Alan has given incredibly valuable advice on our storylines that involve businesses and business practice. He has provided his expertise by reading and giving his opinion on script scenes, as well as answering direct questions about specific business scenarios.”

Useful business learnings

Working with Coronation Street reminded me that M&A can be complex but, with the

right guidance, they can be successful. 

Here are 10 tips for business owners contemplating getting involved with M&A:

  • Objectives: Begin by identifying your strategic objectives. If you’re on the buy or investment side, what do you hope to achieve, for example growth, diversification, or cost savings?

  • Due Diligence: Conduct comprehensive Due Diligence (DD) to assess the target company's financial health, operations, legal matters, and potential risks. Or, if your business is the target company, ensure your house is in order a long time before DD. Every single time I have been involved in M&A for myself or for clients, we have under-estimated the time DD takes.

  • Cultures: Ensure that the corporate cultures of both companies are compatible, as culture clashes can lead to post-M&A challenges. I’d go so far as to say that doing the deal is the easy part, relatively speaking.

  • Expert advice: Hire experienced legal, financial, tax and commercial advisers to guide you through the process, including contract negotiations and regulatory compliance.

  • Financing (buy-side or investment-side): Plan your financing well in advance, considering the source of funds for the investment/acquisition and any potential changes in capital structure.

  • Communication: Decide at the beginning how you’re going to communicate what and when with various stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers, to minimise uncertainty.

  • Integration: Whether your business is investing, buying or selling, develop a clear integration plan to smoothly combine the operations and systems of the two companies. This must include key milestones and responsible individuals on all sides of the equation.

  • Talent: Identify and make plans to retain key talent from both organisations, as key team members leaving can disrupt the integration process.

  • Post-deal evaluation: Continuously assess the progress and outcomes to ensure that they meet your original objectives, and make necessary adjustments.

  • Legal compliance: Ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations throughout the M&A process, e. g. TUPE.

Remember that each M&A deal is unique, so it's important to tailor your approach to the specific circumstances and goals of your business. 

It’s typical for entrepreneurs to be brave and be bold, to want to do something new and exciting. They love the rush. It’s in their DNA. Most are risk takers. What I would urge you to do, dear reader, is to talk to someone who’s lived through doing M&A. Yes, like me!

Listen to their experience, even if you choose to ignore it.

If you get stuck in a situation later, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

M&A is a heady, exciting part of business, and it’s easy to get carried away with the adrenaline of doing a deal, and take your eye off the ball running your own business.

And, if you’re on the sell-side of M&A, ask yourself the question, “What am I going to do after completion?” It’s a huge question, and one you’d be surprised how little consideration entrepreneurs give to it.

If you are in this situation now, or are contemplating it, and you could benefit from the outside perspective of someone who's been there, done that, I’m here to help.


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