The C.V. Lemmon Success Formula


At the core of C.V. Lemmon’s success is an unwavering commitment to creating value for the customer, a high respect for people, a fierce determination to improve every business process, and a healthy philosophy of growing in good times and bad.

Since the company’s founding in 1983, countless other investment banks have either gone to the great liquidation center in the sky or, failing that, ridden the kinds of highs and lows that would induce nausea to a stunt pilot. Since, 2002, C.V. Lemmon has been nearly bulletproof – steadily growing, expanding its product line,

developing new markets and continuing its upward climb. Ask anyone affiliated with the company’s key to success and you’ll likely receive a simple three-word response: “The C.V. Lemmon Way.”

What’s the C.V. Lemmon Way? Some might say its equal parts of financing genius, thousands of influential contacts throughout the world, a management philosophy focused on developing people and fostering relationships, a hyper-awareness of changing market forces, and a near obsessive corporate focus on continuous improvement.


Deliberately differentiating itself from other investment banks has long been the hallmark of the C.V. Lemmon Way. Ramping up capabilities after the recession of 2000 – 2003, company executives surveyed the international M&A marketplace and quickly surmised that C.V. Lemmon would soon be overwhelmed if it chose to take on any bulge bracket investment bank with their technological and geographic superiority. So instead of matching the other investment banks’ focus on transactions over $50,000,000 in value, C.V. Lemmon went with a smaller lineup.

The strategy worked, and as the U.S. economy recovered, C.V. Lemmon increased capacity and began to diversify the range of its services to domestic and European privately held businesses. To promote mergers & acquisitions C.V. Lemmon even created a Ground Basics School/ Action Plan that helped owners to become familiar with the process to maximize value / sell to a foreign company / sell for maximum value. The next step was to convince a nation of aging owners in love with their businesses to sell now on the upswing and to consider an international selling market.

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, C.V. Lemmon’s success selling to the middle market may seem preordained and inevitable, but it is the result of planning, executing, and building relationships.

In a business environment where for many firms customer advocacy is more about public relations than genuinely expending the effort to put customers first, C.V. Lemmon represents a refreshing departure. And rather than buying into the mentality that every corporate decision should be made with one eye nervously toward earning fees, C.V. Lemmon says its firm focuses its attention on smart growth that’s grounded in giving customers what they want and staying true to core company values.

“Growth depends on how well you listen to your customers,” he says. “So the better the relationships you have with your customers and referral sources, the more likely you are to grow. You don’t get too greedy. You set your own internal targets and then play true to them. And in today’s day and time, you don’t read the newspaper, except maybe the funny/sports pages.”

From our perspective, this is an intellectual and challenging business. We are dealing at the pinnacle of the financial mountain. Owners have worked diligently for decades building their business. At the most crucial time they entrust us with the responsibility to sell their business for maximum value. It is both highly frustrating and rewarding. In addition to the significant monetary consideration, Lemmon says the psychological reward comes when a client extends his/her hand and says, “Thank You. We could not have achieved this without your help.” Each closing is promptly followed by a celebration dinner, which is always a fun event.

“Even though it’s not written anywhere into the C.V. Lemmon Way, one thing I’ve found very clearly here is that the customer comes first and we come second. So as long as you always make your decisions with that order in mind, you should all be right.”

Sometimes customers do not know the process or are intimidated by the negotiations and pending results. C.V. Lemmon always asks the client to be active in the process of selling the business. It is important for the seller to build rapport with a buyer. And who knows the business better than the client and his/her management team? C.V. Lemmon handles the negotiations for value and structuring a sale. Most frequently, C.V. Lemmon works with a seasoned team of attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors with whom C.V. Lemmon has built a relationship. “When a patient goes to the hospital for heart surgery does the patient also choose the assistant surgeon, the anestiologist and the nurses? No he does not. Similarly, C.V. Lemmon has found that working with a team who has experienced repeated successes makes the process more smooth while increasing the chance of a successful closing at maximum value.”

“We are going to grow, but we are going to do it at a level that sustains or even improves customer relationships. Because of this mind-set that all of our business partners must be successful, we can’t become too arrogant. It isn’t a matter of ‘We sell a high percentage of businesses we represent, and our market share is going up.’ The reality is I have numerous partners, referral sources and employees to think about, to make sure they are successful. This attitude keeps you from changing, growing and improving. A colleague once said to me, ‘You guy’s are a lap ahead, but you always act like you are a lap behind.’ Success can be deadly because you forget what got you there, or you begin to feel like you’re entitled to it. That doesn’t happen here.”

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