On Corporate Acquisitions – What About Me?

Coincidentally, 2 people in my inner circle recently asked for insight and advice related to corporate acquisitions. This includes:

  • My oldest son, who works for a high-tech company that just announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by a larger firm.
  • A Chief Information Officer (CIO) friend who joined an organization heavily involved in acquisitions.

Since I’ve worked for firms that have been acquired, and have acquired others, as well as having led numerous post acquisition integration projects on a consulting basis, I have a “bit” of a clue.

In fact, over the years, my company (Customer Centricity) published a number of articles on the topic, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post, for those interested in learning more from a corporate / management perspective.

For those who work for a company being acquired, but don’t play a (huge) role in managing it, this post is for you.

More specifically, I hope to answer the following question / concern:

What is likely to happen “to me” as a result of the acquisition? And, how can I ensure that I come out OK?

The quick answer: That depends.

It depends on a number of things, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • The nature of the acquisition
  • Your department
  • You

While you may have no control over the first 2 items, you most certainly control the third (you).

More specifically, you control your attitude (keep it GREAT) and performance (keep it HIGH).

If you haven’t noticed already, there are (or soon will be) people absolutely freaking out at the possible outcomes of the acquisition as shared via the water-cooler scuttlebutt.

My advice:

  • Be NOT one of these people
  • Pay no attention to the rumor mill and certainly don’t contribute to it

Bottom-line: There is ONLY one constant in life (personal or professional) and that is change. Realize that change is good! And, things ALWAYS work out for the best!

Prior to discussing possible outcomes, at the individual level, let’s talk about the why. Why do acquisitions take place?

The objective of an acquisition is to create a whole (company) that is greater than the sum of its parts.

This could include the acquiring firm achieving one or more of the following, as a result of the transaction (a.k.a., the nature of the acquisition):

  • Increasing revenue / decreasing costs, since both companies are typically in the same or similar business, performing similar activities, often calling on the very same customer.
  • Bringing together complementary products/services to augment their existing offerings in the marketplace (i.e., providing one-stop shopping for the customer for similar / related needs, integrated solutions, etc.).
  • The larger fish (I mean firm) eating the smaller fish (I mean its competition), thus gaining its customer-base and potentially killing off the acquired firm’s offerings altogether.

Know that, at the time the pending acquisition announcement is made to employees, many weeks (or months) have gone into the up-front negotiations and (hopefully) planning for the transaction. And, these announcements typically go out several weeks prior to the deal actually closing. During this time there will be many closed-door conversations as management from both firms discuss what things will look like (post acquisition) and how they will get there (strategy and execution).

At a top-level, I’ve seen these go a few ways (listed below in the order of frequency). The acquiring firm may:

  1. Aggressively strive to fully integrate the acquired firm to, as quickly as possible, present a seamless (one-company / brand) face to the marketplace. And, achieve the revenue gains/cost efficiencies that the acquisition was based upon.
  2. Pull the acquired firm under its umbrella, while leaving the majority of things (people, organizations, brand) in tact, and methodically integrate where it makes sense, over time.
  3. Continue to let the acquired firm operate “pretty much” independently (for a while…)

Now, back to what this could mean to me.

In ALL cases, there will be some form of redundancy. That is, specific roles being performed in both firms which, when combined, can be performed with fewer people.

Put it this way (and to be perfectly blunt)…“If” you are VERY good at what you do, have a great attitude, work exceedingly well with others and are a key contributor to the products/services offered, then the acquiring firm is “very likely” to keep you around.

And, if you fit the above profile, it is quite possible that you will be given a “stay bonus”, as the firm wants to make sure you hang around through, and for some period of time after, the actual integration.

A great place to be 🙂

That said, the math (cost efficiencies to be gained) may simply not work out with the redundant roles remaining in the firm. In this case you will be let go (typically with a parachute commensurate with your years of service to the firm and potentially an appointment with an outplacement counseling agency).

I should also say that I’ve seen the above scenario go the opposite way. That is, the redundant role is filled by the person in the acquired firm because s/he is a higher performer than the one holding the role in the acquiring firm.

Also, a great place to be 🙂

And, “if” you are VERY good at what you do, you will easily be able to land another (often more rewarding) opportunity at another firm.

Have no fear! You have looked for a job before. And, if you need a refresher on doing so, click here.

That said, I should reinforce the fact that, “many” employees will be in “non-redundant” positions and may very well feel little to no impact during the integration.

While you are (I won’t say “waiting”, but) working as details of the upcoming integration unfold, a few good steps you can take include:

  1. Continue to work your tail off (exceed expectations) at your job!
  2. Manage your LinkedIn presence – Establish connections with EVERYONE you work with (in and outside the company), have a good relationship with and, most importantly, respect.
  3. Take inventory of your contributions as they are good resume builders.

Note: Do NOT do the last 2 items at the expense of impacting your performance “on the job.” Remember, now is NOT the time to be observed as someone who is easily distracted.

Your goal is to have others observe you as a rock-solid performer who is not swayed by the winds of change. On the contrary, you are happy to usher it in!

Why? Because, you KNOW you will survive no matter the outcome!

Again, I’ve been through a few (dozen?) of these, and in many of the seats involved. By being intelligent and aware of the nature of integrations, and remaining a high performer on the job, you will sail smoothly through whatever transition this business “event” takes you.

In closing, if you need more inspiration or strategies to continue to improve your performance or attitude, feel free to scour this blog site. There is plenty of content to serve you!

All the best!

p.s. – As promised, following is a list of articles my company published on acquisitions that you may find helpful.

  1. It’s All About The Customer Base
  2. Growth by Acquisition
  3. Goals and Necessities
  4. Setting the Stage for a Successful Acquisition
  5. Building the Integration Team
  6. Establish Key Assumptions and Planning Parameters
  7. Achieving Success with Post-Merger Integrations
  8. Post-Merger Integrations – The Arrogant Cowboy and the Indecisive Tortoise
  9. Post-Merger Integrations – The Importance of Thorough Planning
  10. Achieving Decisive Execution

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