Fumbled Strategic Acquisitions

Not all mothers should let their sons grow up to be cowboys (or so advised Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson), and not all CEOs should want their midsized firms to grow up to become Fortune 500 behemoths. But those who are eager to grow in leaps and bounds usually require more than organic growth to get there. They need the added revenue that comes from buying another company.

Good acquisitions can turbocharge growth. They can inject new vitality into moribund businesses. In fact, midsized companies often find it less expensive to buy another company—a competitor or a player in a new market—than to expand organically.

In the last decade, for instance, United Site Services, a Westborough, Massachusetts-based provider ...

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