Love It or List It: A look at M&A and must-read local books

By Larry Gennari – Chief Curator for Authors & Innovators

I’m a bit addicted to home-renovation shows, and one of my recent and recurring addictions is Love it or List it, the home-design show on HGTV. The premise of the show is simple: the hosts, Hilary, a home designer, and David, a real estate agent, visit couples trying to decide whether to renovate or to sell their homes. They visit with the homeowners to hear them out, set budgets, and assess alternatives.

If you watch the show, then you already know: By and large, these people are crazy. They tell Hilary what they “must have” to be happy in their current house, and they advise David about “what it will take to make them move.” For Hilary, the requests often are unrealistic or outrageous: a luxurious new master suite, massive walk-in closets, a renovated larger bathroom for their six kids and a spacious home office — all for a 1,100-square-foot house and a budget of $40,000.

For David, people often want brand-new construction, ideally in the same neighborhood, but also somehow with a better commute to work, all for the same price as their current home. Why not throw in a Shetland pony too? My own pet peeve is with those who also want “man caves” or “lady lairs.” (The very use of those terms is an alarming practice that must be stopped before it spreads.) My wife and I often end up yelling at the TV screen, which is fun and cathartic.

At this time of year, many business owners wrestle with similar existential questions, and I see much of the same angst in my M&A practice. Luckily, I have a few business books to recommend for the love-it-or-list-it business decision: Does your established growth company need a renovation (or at least, some innovation to sustain its competitive advantage)? Then you need to read HBS Professor Gary Pisano’s new book, Creative Construction, a smart, direct and thoughtful guide to creating and maintaining innovative strategies, even and especially for established companies that are considered well-run. I liked Pisano’s practical ideas about forcing an organization to search for new ideas in novel and unfamiliar places, inside and out.

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