Media & Acquisitions: the rise of Infopro Digital

CHRISTOPHE-CZAJKAL’Usine Nouvelle, LSA, Red On Line, Le Moniteur: as head of Infopro Digital, Christophe Czajka, has led around 30 acquisitions in less than 15 years.

“You need a real entrepreneurial plan”

When you ask him about the secrets of a well-managed acquisition, Christophe believes that “to be successful with a build-up, you need a real entrepreneurial plan. An acquisition is not a financial deal”, he maintains. In fact, for this entrepreneur-at-heart and founder of the Infopro Digital Group, an acquisition is similar to creating a company. For a transaction to be successful, the purchaser must ask him/herself the following question: “What do I want to achieve from an entrepreneurial standpoint?” There needs to be a direct operational implication in order to define the broad future strategy for the company and its products. “In terms of build-up, it’s better to be a good entrepreneur than an excellent financier. Contrary to what many people believe, acquisitions are a lot more than a numbers game.”

For Christophe, this entrepreneurial plan is defined around three main acquisition types with very specific objectives: acquiring assets in one of the Group’s six sectors, applying internal know-how (digitisation) and investing in innovative companies with strong potential. “From promising start-ups like Red On Line to companies bigger than we are, like Le Moniteur, at Infopro Digital we have always been confronted with the same problem: defining the entrepreneurial plan associated with each acquisition type”, he sums up.

Incorporating cultural transformation into the purchase of a company

Christophe believes it is essential to include cultural transformation in his planned acquisition. “The corporate culture can be a thousand things all at once. To neglect it means to neglect the identity of the company.” It’s really important to take the time to analyse the company and integrate its culture in its growth plan.

This cultural transformation takes time, of course, often several years, to really happen. “It’s therefore important to involve all your staff in the adventure, right from the start. Employees must not feel “bought”, but well and truly valued parties in a new chapter of their story”, Christophe continues.

“The worst thing is uncertainty.”

“The worst thing is uncertainty.” By this, Christophe means it’s important to make clear managerial decisions and to make them quickly. “Very early on, ask the question, ‘How do you intend to manage your business?’ You have to define a quick and effective operational plan, so that everyone knows where he/she is and what he/she has to do. And it’s up to the purchaser to be firm and open on this point.”

Put your ego to one side

It’s well-known that two-thirds of acquisitions fail. Egos should be banned because even a well-planned acquisition can come unstuck. For Christophe, it’s here that teamwork is crucial: “You have to know how to listen to employees if they express reservations! And in particular, don’t persist if you feel it’s going in the wrong direction.”

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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.