April 5, 2011, 4:35 PM

The art of an e-commerce deal begins with building a consensus

Flexibility—not dictatorship—is critical in making a successful acquisition, says an IRCE speaker.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

Bob Marino

Reaching common ground on key issues such as price rather than trying to dictate terms can ensure smoother and more productive talks when making an acquisition, says CafePress.com president Bob Marino.

Marino will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in San Diego on June 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. during the financial growth workshop in a session titled “The anatomy of an acquisition,” which will be part of the pre-conference workshop:  “Start it, grow it, sell it: Financial strategies for your company's next move". He says consensus building is crucial in acquiring another company. “You don’t negotiate in business meetings but rather have reasonable people arrive at a reasonable solution,” says Marino. “If that can’t happen, then there isn’t a fit.”

CafePress.com, No. 120 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, sells customized merchandise. In September the e-retailer bought Canvas On Demand, an online service for creating personalized custom canvases from users’ photographs.

The key to the successful purchase of Canvas On Demand was making sure the deal would lead to more sales for CafePress.com and would enable the online retailer to boost its marketing and technology capabilities.

“It didn’t take long for us to realize that Canvas on Demand shared a similar business model and corporate values,” says Marino. “We knew that this acquisition would round out our art category and bring a rock star team to run the CafePress art business.”

During his session, Marino will discuss best practices that can help attendees initiate better deals for their own organizations. He also will talk about how CafePress.com, which generates annual web sales of more than $120 million, conducts due diligence before the start of any negotiation.

“In this presentation I will discuss the corporate strategy behind our latest acquisition,” says Marino. “I will talk about how an acquisition can be used to not only increase revenue and profitability, but also build on core competencies and expand successful teams.”

Marino will discuss how two companies can complement each other once the deal process is underway. “We looked at ways to build this business internally and we looked outward towards our competitors in the print-on-demand art category to find who already was doing amazing work,” he says. “In the end it became clear that Canvas on Demand was doing work we admired, and working with them was going to be more effective than reinventing the wheel internally.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Marino to speak because he is an experienced manager who not only knows how to generate new business organically, but knows when and how to make key acquisitions. Prior to joining CafePress, he was president and CEO of Chicago-based Cuisine Innovations. He was also vice president and general manager of three divisions of Tyson Foods, and has helped launch several divisional start-ups for Fortune 500 companies. He is the holder of several patents. CafePress serves more than 11 million shoppers each month.

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