For corporate finance executives, few professional experiences are as adeptly converted into social currency as those manifested inside the realm of mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
It seems that regardless of whether a finance executive has been involved in one deal or 40, they are usually able to quickly share a takeaway or two. For finance leader Natalie Laackman, the latter would be the case—or, rather, the latter times two, as she estimates that she has been involved in 75 to 100 such transactions.
Thus, perhaps it goes without saying that when we had the opportunity to sit down last month with Laackman at NetSuite’s SuiteWorld 2023 tech conference in Las Vegas, we couldn’t resist asking her for one enduring snapshot—that is, a specific M&A experience that has refused to fade from her corporate backdrop. Laackman did not disappoint us, and what she shared reveals as much about herself as it does the human side of enterprise.
First, permit us to supply a few details about Laackman and her long and adventurous corporate finance career. Her path to the CFO office began with a role as a CPA inside Deloitte’s Chicago offices, from which she advanced into a succession of senior finance posts inside the food industry.
Along the way, she added such boldface names as Kraft, Sara Lee, and Kellogg’s to her resume as her growing expertise in packaged foods, technology, and M&A drew notice.
Regarding the M&A snapshot, Laackman relates that among her most memorable is one taken around 2001, when her expansion-minded employer asked her to “move a deal along” with a family-owned company in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“There were two brothers who had built this very interesting business—I was asked to start the negotiations, so I flew down to Sao Paulo by myself,” recalls Laackman, who tells us that as a security precaution, she was assigned two armed guards upon her arrival.
On the occasion of her visit, the two brothers extended to Laackman an invitation to discuss the deal at a family dinner.
“This was their baby, and they wanted to sell it to a company that they felt would grow it and continue to nurture it and love it just as they had,” comments Laackman, who adds that the family dinner was served at 11:00 p.m. at the home of one of the brothers. Gathered around the table that night were children, wives, and a grandparent who was celebrating his 80th birthday, Laackman explains.
“I realized that I needed to demonstrate that I was a person who represented something that could be a great cultural fit for their company,” remarks Laackman, who notes that on that night, she needed to summon all of her “influencing skills” in order to muster an approach that would involve both the technical and human side of doing business.
Roughly 3 months and two or three more trips to Sao Paolo later, a deal was signed, reports Laackman, who today looks back fondly on her food industry days despite having since switched to the healthcare industry—where today she is the CFO of MedSpeed, a provider of same-day healthcare logistics.
Says Laackman: “At the same time that I was asked to join MedSpeed, I was contacted by a $10 billion food company. I knew that I kind of had the playbook for that, but there was this extra appeal about MedSpeed: It had a mission involving a need that was going to be ever critical, and it was a place where I could make a positive impact.” -Jack Sweeney
This article first appeared on Forbes.com