The ink is dry on the deal, the celebratory corks have been popped and the sharp-suited lawyers have gone off to bank a small fortune. The projected negotiations to thrash out a deal to buy or merge with another company are finally over. Relief all around, smiley faces, back slapping; cigars; done and dusted! Although through-the-night negotiations on a diet of poor coffee and poorer cigarettes are not easy, integrating the two or more entities will be substantially harder and a potential minefield.
Considerable time, effort and cash are expended in calculating the business case of M&A activity before completion of a deal. Elaborately crafted press releases tell the world about the benefits the new relationship will deliver. However, very few people involved up to this stage in the process will actually be accountable for future success or more likely, failure.
Whether your M&A is a local, regional, national or global event here are 10 top tips to getting as close to the glossy press release promises as possible.
- Team. Appoint a team to lead the change and ensure there is a Change Manager in the team with deep and recent experience in the field. The overall project must be led by someone of suitable seniority in order to make an easily accessible two-way bridge between junior and senior groups. Don’t select the team members from one entity only!
- Objectives. Make your intentions and targets clear and get buy-in from all parties and particularly the acquired team. If you genuinely make everyone feel part of the process you will have greater success in implementing difficult decisions later on and for sure these will come!
- Assets. If offices and factories are involved and your intention is to centralise/ harmonise you need to approach this delicately. The “bought company” will always assume their workplace is most at risk so all evaluations have to be transparent and honest and impartial 3rd party expert help is advised.
- Culture. There will inevitably be differences in company culture but if both sides can accommodate modification towards a new halfway-house then that can be a win-win but it is extremely difficult to achieve. If culture is forced on one group or another then you are likely to fail.
- Rumour Control. Have you ever heard a good news rumour about someone? Most rumours are negative or critical or someone or something and they will plague M&A integrations. If you get your communication policy in order and people feel free to raise concerns then damaging coffee machine whispering can be nipped in the bud.
- Communicate, communicate, oh and communicate. M&A integration worries people and worried people are not as efficient and diligent as they should. Invest in a website and/or newsletter that very clearly keeps people informed on progress and next steps. Keep them fully involved with Q&A sessions and proactively sought feedback.
- Keep the business going! Sounds obvious but getting distracted by integration ups and downs can severely damage your business. You must keep close control on maintaining good practice in all integrating businesses.
- Complexity Reduction. If the businesses have similar SKU ranges then take the opportunity to understand where there are clear overlaps and where an SKU cull can free up human and cash resources.
- Constantly review. Integration is a real moving feast! Assumptions will change and plans may have to be modified and these should be embraced rather than receive critical attention. Do not be afraid to revisit the objectives and plans frequently and modify as prudent.
- Celebrate. When significant milestones are achieved be sure to get the cakes and champers out. Reassure people that the journey is progressing well and particularity those not directly involved in the process as they will feel the most pressure on job security.
When you consider the amount of time and money that went into securing the M&A deal a generous budget for integration will pay back extremely quickly. A degree of early planning and preparation on the actual integration will see you reach the press release objectives – if anyone ever checks!