To be sure, not every potential target is going to agree to these terms. And finding the right candidate takes time. Datalink typically spends several years researching potential deals before one comes to fruition, Barnum says. But that has a benefit, too: It provides the company time to integrate its previous acquisitions.
Savvy acquirers have a strategic rationale, and plan for the deal that's in sync with the company's core competencies and strategy, Geis says. The deals aren't undertaken simply to expand the empire.
The used of a strategy like Barnum's seems another plus for the Datalink approach.
Some acquirers -- Warren Buffett comes to mind -- have been successful with a largely hands-off approach. Others have done well by tightly integrating their purchases. "There's really an art to this. It's not one size fits all," Geis says.
So far, Datalink appears to have found the right fit, and investors have noticed. Datalink's stock has more than doubled over the past four years, rising from $3.71 to $8.84 as of mid-November.