‘Business is a Relationship,’ CEO Tells PBA Students


Paul Donahue, president and CEO of Palm Beach Gardens-based G4S Government Solutions, is reminded of the biblical story of David and Goliath when discussing the challenges that can arise when larger companies merge with smaller ones.

When his company acquired a smaller firm a few years ago, “we were the Goliath,” he said, noting that his firm spent three years ensuring that the various elements of the merger were integrated properly. Other times, he said, companies find themselves in the unenviable position of David facing the giant.

Paul Donahue speaks to Palm Beach Atlantic University students in the Weyenberg Center.

That was one of several cultural lessons that Donahue, who earned his MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic in 1999, shared with business students on Wednesday. Donahue, along with Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly, will receive the American Free Enterprise companion medal from Palm Beach Atlantic University during a public ceremony at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday. The event will be live streamed via the following link: https://www.pba.edu/live-streaming-1

Donahue has been with G4S GS since 1994. G4S GS provides paramilitary, security, fire and emergency protection and K-9 facilities management services to sensitive government facilities worldwide. Donahue also is a small business owner of a helicopter company based at the Lantana Airport.

Donahue focused his remarks on eight corporate integrations that he has overseen in the past decade at G4S GS and the takeaways that can be gleaned from each one. He also spoke about the current state of mergers and acquisitions in the corporate world. The theme with mergers and acquisitions is “adapt and overcome,” he said.

Among the takeaways he discussed is that “a business is a relationship.” With mergers, “if there is no chemistry on Day 1” then the chances of it working are almost nonexistent, he said.

At the same time, “you learn quickly there is no one model for relationships,” he said, adding that diversity within a corporation is key. “You need opposing views and you need contrasting opinions,” he said.

Another important point: “There will come a time when you need to consider an exit strategy,” he said, noting that many companies don’t have one in place even when the owner is advanced in age.

He also reminded the students of a lesson learned from a competitor’s misstep that led to his company eventually acquiring the competitor. “No matter how big you get, no one is too big to fail,” he said.

Donahue also briefly laid out three case studies in business ethics, one in which there was a failure on the part of government, another in which there was a failure on the part of a contractor and the last in which the failure involved both. The unethical behavior led to lost jobs and even jail time, he said.

“Short-term riches aren’t worth long-term ruins,” he said.

During his presentation, Donahue reminded students about the power of encouragement, even in the business world. He also reminded them to take a typing course if they need to brush up on their skills, to embrace change at every opportunity and to recognize that education is “the one single investment that will open="open" doors for you.”