In a lot of startups (especially good ones) the founder/CEO/leader is a customer-oriented sales person. After the idea/product/service is built, and the market mapped, the company begins to grow. Because of the virtuous feedback loop right at the center of the company, innovations for customer benefit come more rapidly. Some level of premium pricing for the attentiveness and quality the company provides is possible. Even with bumps along the way, the major customer facing components add up to more and more success. Everything is great, right?
Well, yes. And in businesses that are not on a "harvest path," this system, (combined with a constantly updated market map) should work well for a long time, potentially providing a lot of positive cash flow for the company and its owners.
But...for a company with investors who expect a "harvest," just as things get good on the revenue side, the strategic plan for the company's future becomes very important. A new customer emerges - the buyer of the company. Whether this sale is going to be an LBO or a Private Equity transaction, or a sale to a strategic buyer, the process of selling to the buyer is critical, and overlooked. The sales oriented CEO needs to manage this process as intently as the customer facing sales process.
It's amazing how fast this happens, especially in companies with short product development cycles in non-medical industries. Without a pretty good understanding of all of the potential acquirers, and an informed view of how the company will fit with the acquirer, it's possible to leave cash on the table, or not to complete the transaction at all.
So, the second market map the company needs is the world of potential acquirers and as much as we can learn of their preferences, practices and plans. How long is their buy cycle? How do they like to be approached? Have they done a lot/a few/ no transactions with Investment Bankers?
For strategic buyers --
What gaps in their offering exist that we fit in?
What do we sell that complements what they sell to the same customer base?
Can they take our product to a new group of customers?
What can we do to their revenue? EBIT? How much synergy?