Past acquisitions never die, they merely fade away…

Consulting firms have been on a shopping spree in recent years: Even allowing for momentary pauses for breath, it’s been a fast-paced, competitive race to see who can acquire what, ideally—but rarely—for the right price. As our recent white paper on current trends argues, that’s forcing a rethink. Inorganic growth is no longer a black and white issue. Ecosystems—partnering with a range of more specialised firms—has become the strategy du jour. But what do you do with the deals you’ve already made?

I’m sure we’ve all experienced that feeling you get when you discover something squashed at the back of the closet, which you bought on a whim and never wore. It’s a mixture of disappointment—the grand plan to rebrand yourself at the next party that you didn’t follow through on—and frustration. Why do I persist in buying maxi-dresses that don’t suit me, just because the material is gorgeous? I suppose you could call this buyer’s remorse, but it’s not just a pang of regret and irritation, but the very specific melancholia that comes from recognising that not everything is possible, that head-to-toe floral and frizzy red hair will never mix. German almost certainly has a word for it. With some experimentation with Google Translate, I’ve come up with Unerreichbaregelegenheitbereuen, unreachable opportunity regret, and Posthybrismelancholie, a sense of sadness that comes from realising you’ve been guilty of hubris. Whatever term you use, I think we can be certain that many firms, looking at their purchases, will recognise it.

So, what do you do with your past-purchases? Tempting though it may be, you can’t take them back (you effectively bought the entire shop). There’s the giving away option, but that would be to publicly admit defeat. You could repurpose it, but this can be difficult. The sleeves you cut off one shirt and sew onto another are unlikely to look better than the originals. People will snigger at you behind your back as they notice the stitches unravel, a case of one plus one equalling half. I suppose, theoretically, you could try to pretend that you actually bought something else: “I know you think this looks a bit like a fascinator with a large ostrich feather feature, but it’s actually a hands-free cooling system that’s all the rage in [remote location] this year.” Some may be fooled by this approach, especially those that haven’t visited [remote location], but probably not many.

On balance, squeezing it back into that dark recess of your closet is preferable. If your purchase stays hidden long enough, everyone—clients, employees, and competitors—will forget you ever bought it. When someone comes up to you at a party and asks about it, you can look appropriately vague. Over time, even you’ll forget about it. 

And then, of course, you’ll do it all over again.