Part of our growth strategy is to acquire other businesses and build on this concept. So I am involved in looking at other companies as potential acquisitions. In the course of doing this, I run across companies that do not meet our profile, and that we are thus uninterested in.
I have recently made a personal, non-business-related friendship with a fellow who has his own small private equity firm. He does not have a fund, per se, but has a roster of previous investors he can go to for capital, several bench CEO relationships, and a small portfolio of companies. He is much better versed in M&A than I am, of course, and I find him an interesting guy to chat with about my search. I tend to have a more folksy, operational approach, and he has a colder, more investor-type approach. It makes for a lot of learning on my part.
We recently looked at a company that did not meet our profile, but it seemed that it might be right up his alley. I put him in touch with the broker responsible for the seller and made an introduction. It does seem like it may be a fit, and though it's early, it is possible there might be a deal at some point.
I ran across my friend a few nights ago and he said "Hey, if something happens, I'll take care of you. I'll throw you $X for the referral," X being a low 5-figure number. (For reference, if this goes through, it's a ~$5-10MM deal.)
I am extremely uncomfortable with this. I know that people in the business of M&A sometimes have referral agreements in place, but this is a friend, and it's just one of those things where I threw him a bone on something I wasn't interested in. As far as I'm concerned, it's about like telling someone about a house that's for sale. Even more, this is a represented deal, so it's not like I was telling him about a house that wasn't on the market and that he might not have come across anyways. I politely declined, but he smiled and just said "Hey, other people have done it for me, it's just a little courtesy."
Am I nuts for feeling this way? Or, presuming this does go through, should I just collect and smile? Is this an industry-respected courtesy that I should graciously accept (and therefore be prepared to abide by, should the shoe be on the other foot?) I mean, a few grand is a few grand, right?