There we sat in the lounge. The environment cosy for a Sunday evening at about 8 pm on a date in the second quarter of the year 2017. What was at stake? A conversation over a glass of wine. Call it the dialogue that gave birth to ‘our baby’. There was a cause to wonder: why could an older business owner see in a ‘wannabe’ business owner? Then he remarked, “I’d want us to stay closer to collaborate on several investment products for our respective firms and clients”.
This statement lit my business mind. I saw an opportunity offered by a serial entrepreneur who was willing to help a younger businessperson grow better and faster. A powerful lesson in business collaboration states: Alone, we can do so little, but together, we can do much. That was what was at play right before my eyes. A glass of wine it took and a ‘love-me-love-my-dog’ business relationship commenced between – OctaneSD and Dalex Capital – two firms that would soon join forces as one to continue in the business of helping individuals and institutions achieve wealth creation and financial independence.
Rolling with Alex
Dalex Capital having been operating for over seven years, had experienced some turbulence in business that OctaneSD was yet to face. The year 2017 was fabulous for both businesses but the story was different for both in the following year. 2018 began to test our strategies for sustainability. Alex (then CEO of Dalex Capital) did not develop more grey hairs but Suzy was beginning to (at my relatively younger age). He had travelled this journey in many endeavours and had experienced all the bumps, so he remained hopeful, knowing how things could turn out positively.
On hindsight, Alex’s attitude reminds me of Robin Sharma’s observation on change – we should be ready for the discomforts at the beginning of every journey, stay through the messy stages in the journey and rather keep our eyes on the gorgeousness that will spring out at the end of the journey. Armed by this promise, we remained close and continued to collaborate in areas we both saw opportunities over the years.
What does he see in me?
From time to time, I will ask myself: “what does Alex see in Suzy?” I get amazed at some of his requests and his belief that I could deliver. A reason he shared a lot of business success stories with me. Oh! Alex has ‘stories that stick’ (greetings to Kindra Hall). Stories of pure determination, focus and a deep-rooted desire to make a difference in his field as an investment banker, angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and a dancer – oh yes, you should see Alex on the dance floor.
Of all the inns in the world, Alex and I bumped into each other on the Aviance Bus at the airport on a return trip from Kumasi. He said, with his hands in his pocket, in his baggy jeans and white shirt, “Suzy, why don’t we consider a merger? You have stuffs I don’t have. Likewise, I have stuffs you don’t have. There could be some synergies you know”. I had to quickly hold onto the metal grills on the bus, not to topple over the other passengers close by. Mind you, this was in the last quarter of 2017.
The Founders’ Dilemmas
In his book The Founders Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman explored the dilemmas founders face by progressively introducing new players into their space to bring about transformations. Could this be one of them? A merger between Dalex Capital and OctaneSD? Noam describes this succinctly as “flock together to succeed or play with fire and get extinct”. Noam further observed that collaborations between individuals or businesses with diverse networks and net-worth generate creativity and innovation. The result, I believe, is seen in the growth of a new company (NewCo).
The easiest part of this corporate marriage for me was founded on the fact that we operated within the same industry and had one ‘Godfather’ – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – as our Regulator (a benefit of homogeneity in business). However, the nightmares were going to be the nuisances of mergers (alas – the elephant in the room).
Wealth or Control?
Alex and I set ourselves a lofty six-months of initial conversations that would graduate to deep discussions and climax to gorgeous conclusions. Between the two of us “the deal should be easy”, or so we thought. No. No. No. At best, that will remain only in our dreams. Both businesses had other shareholders including well-structured boards. We needed the buy-in of all stakeholders. This was beyond Alex proposing ‘business love’ to Suzy, to say it lightly.
To our dismay, our stakeholders threw questions at us that made us wonder: Wait! why did we both not think about this love relationship earlier? Then the poignant questions: “do you want control or wealth? Why do you want to hold onto 100% of GH¢100,000 when you can hold onto 10% of GH¢10m? Do you know that your combined efforts will add value and open bigger market opportunities for you?” the suggestions came. “Even more importantly, you will save money – capital and operational cost. Your asset base will grow and you can attract more funds” they added.
The Landing Page
Then we set out on a journey to consolidate thoughts and ideas by bringing together experts to help achieve our dream. Due diligence and consolidation were estimated to be completed within six months. But it extended beyond that. As literature has it, a merger is one of the most challenging steps an organization can take as it creates tensions as well as excitement (www.ivar.org.uk). Pause!
There were possible deal-breakers on our plates. What! Yes, there were. Name them for the NewCo – shareholding ratios, office location, board members, staff rationalization, assets and liabilities, etcetera. Somehow, we crossed that bridge with all the relativities except one: the business name for the NewCo. Anytime we thought through the name for the NewCo, there were tensions around the table.
One day, one of the consultants said to me, “young lady, do you know the reason why some mergers are never signed off?” No, I retorted. “The name, just the name for the NewCo. It is usually a sensitive conversation, especially for brand management, brand equity, and personal sentiments”. In response, I asked “why it is not the first agenda item then?” Why do we come this far only for the name for the Newco to become a deal-breaker? He smiled at me and said, “did you ever bother about the last name of the guy you went out with on a date until he took you to the alter and insist you write his last name as yours?” Haha, I laughed so loudly and said, “sometimes all we know is the nickname till it’s all said and done”. Then he finally said, talk to your partner.
At the next stakeholder meeting, involving the board and the transition team, wisdom prevailed. One member just quizzed from one end of the table, “have you both considered just merging your names as they stand?”. We said, do you mean OctaneSDDalexCapital? That is a mouthful, isn’t it? In the quiet of the moment, Alex said, OctaneDC (as in OctaneDalexCapital) That was it! Deal closed. We were all like, “oh God, the answer had been with all of us all this while”. So simple to the eye but tough to the mind. Thank you Mr. Alex Kwasi Bruks. Together, we will grow stronger.
And that was it on that faithful Friday evening at No. 2, Peduase Hills. We shook hands, and oh yes, we hugged (absolutely no COVID-19 wahala back then), we drank more wine, chewed plenty meat and that was how two Old Companies (OldCos) died as the NewCo – OctaneDC – was born. The rest of the story, they say…
About the Writer
Dr. Suzy Aku Puplampu is the CEO of OctaneDC Limited (https://octanedc.com). OctaneDC is a fund management and advisory firm regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As a finance and investment professional, Suzy has in-depth knowledge and experience working in the finance industry in Ghana spanning two decades.
Dr. Puplampu holds an international certificate in wealth and investment management (CISI, UK, 2020) and earned her Doctorate of Business Administration in Finance (with specialisation in Wealth Management) from Walden University, USA. She is a Fellow with ACCA (UK) and holds MBA in Finance from the University of Ghana, Legon.