Challenges of Mergers – Changes

If you have ever been involved in a corporate merger, or your company was acquired by another, you understand that the integration of the companies is a complex effort. Mergers can fail for a variety of reasons including culture, technology, politics or power struggles. My father worked for Burroughs back in the 70s and 80s and they merges with Sperry/Univac (when) to become Unisys. The joke at the time was the merger was the combination of two $5 Billion firms into one larger $5 Billion firm.merger

I have seen cases where the big company absorbs little company, and years later the ex-employees of the smaller company still refer to themselves as affiliated with the old company. There is a pride to the nimbleness and success of the smaller company (there had to be success as “They” were acquired.) There is also a sense that they did things better at the smaller company. “When we were own our own, we didn’t have all of this administration.” This pride and sometimes resentfulness can slow the integration of the companies and can limit the success of the integrated companies.

The obvious goal of acquisitions is to be better combined company. This combined company is better as a result of revenue growth, or competitive advantages, or increased geographic coverage, or expanded markets or a combination of any of these.
Key to any successful acquisition is to keep the sales of the acquired company growing during as the companies become integrated. Sounds easy, you tell the sales team of the acquired company that they are the best thing since Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and that everyone will be taken care of on the other side and to go out and sell sell sell. Right? Riiiiggghht. Seems the experience of today’s worker or sales team doesn’t always continue to focus and achieve the sales results once an acquisition occurs. People are concerned about changes.

Change is disruptive. Change is often met with resistance. During the integration of acquired companies, people are unsure of how things will work as the companies come together. There is fear of job loss, there is fear of loss of autonomy. Fear of new management, processes, team mates and more. All this leads to declined productivity of the acquired company.

What can you do about it? Honestly, not much. Like they used to say about Philadelphia elections “vote early and often”, companies should communicate early and often. The challenge is you don’t have all of the answers immediately and the vision of the combined company is great, but people want details. They want to know the impact to them right away. Best is to pull the band aid off quickly. One suggestion to keep sales going of the acquired company would be short term sales incentives that are significant enough to get the sales team’s attention vs. focusing on the changes.

I may continue the acquisition theme as this is such a huge topic, so stay tuned! As expected the musical reference for this writing has to be David Bowie’s Changes.
(Turn and face the stranger)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the stranger)
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time


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