Sometimes it's easy to forget that opportunity once the deal is complete. When the deal is signed and we roll up our sleeves as the true blending begins, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the day-to-day reality of blending two completely unique business entities.
To keep the power of the vision and opportunity alive - here are key approaches I recommend to clients:
Define the strategy and vision upfront and for all to see. Sometimes execs introduce the coming event with high level glimpses of the strategy - not wanting to set the wrong expectations before the details are all ironed out. This leaves the door open for personal opinions and perspectives to take the lead - and assumptions to be made. It's human nature to apply our own predispositions to our analysis - and that's when ego and turf can take priority over continuing toward the initial vision. As early as you can, state the vision and the steps to get there clearly and concisely, and keep refining with all those involved on a regular and frequent basis.
Stay positive and passionate about the vision. But we are - we're excited! Of course you are - you bought or are merging with the other company after all. Yet somewhere in your organization are folks who don't share that perspective. We all know that. But we need to do something about it. The snide remarks at the water cooler or the condescending remarks made in departmental meetings do more to undermine the success of an M&A than any other single action. These opinions need to be heard and settled once and for all - and then folks either need to get into the boat or go take another train. Dissension in the ranks of an M&A is wasteful and detrimental to success. Nip it in the bud and move on - visibly and swiftly.
Be thorough with your best-of-the-best planning. We technologists tend to get all excited about the products and solutions and innovation that we can bring together. But the best-of-the best goes far beyond the offerings we can deliver. Some other factors to consider include:
Be sure to view customers with an eye toward the future as well as the past and present. Too often we look at the biggest customers as the best going forward opportunity - when in fact some of the smaller customers may hold the keys to that new market or emerging opportunity we‘ve been seeking. Make sure your sales and customer facing executives charged with the blending have a clear vision of the future - and don't make short-term decisions that can blow your longer term opportunities.
Finally, be sure to thoroughly evaluate the teams who support those customers. Those teams may be the reason those customers hang around…and will stay around. For example:
Instill intra-company teamwork immediately. Set the stage by putting together teams with members from both companies. Give them the goal of working together to define the best options for moving forward in their respective areas. Give joint responsibility to execs or managers from both companies - and let them know you expect them to work together toward your vision - and leave their egos and turf at the door. I know - that's a hard thing to ask people to do. But business is business and there's no room for turf battles in an M&A - it's yet another reason mergers fail.
Dig Deep. One of the biggest challenges with reinvention strategy - whether it is for an M&A or product launch or turnaround - is that we don't often dig deep enough to find the jewels hidden among the clutter. We get lost in the noise - the buzz about the biggest and brightest and best. The ‘knowns' come front and center and the ‘yet to be founds' often end up in the bottom of a pile - never to see the light of day.
The challenge is that in more companies than you'd expect - the true value, the crown jewels that will take you to the next level of success - may not be that obvious. At least not to the folks who live with them day in and day out.
Take time to get away from the day-to-day perspectives and knowns. Dig deep within the organization; look at things from a fresh perspective, without the contamination of the plan. Sometimes it's valuable to bring in objective outsiders to take a look with you - they don't have the baggage and beliefs that all of your employees and executives have collected along the way. That's one of the values a strategic consultant can bring to the table - assuming they have the fundamental market and technical understanding to get up to speed quickly on your opportunity, your markets, your vision.
Above all, executives must set the tone of an M&A event. That tone needs to go beyond the initial company meetings and announcements. It has to permeate each and every interaction from exec round tables to coffee in the kitchen. Leadership is often the difference between a successful or failed M&A.
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