Combining two companies can be demanding and time consuming for the senior staff as well as the employees, clients, and suppliers. If you’re the buyer, take the lead to anticipate the obstacles that will come up. The reality is that there will always be some unknowns, some surprises. Lessen your exposure and maximize the results of the combination with advanced planning and a solid integration strategy.
Most companies underestimate the amount of time planning a deal can take – on both sides. And by the way, while all of this is going on, you’re still trying to run a business.
The process should begin early, perhaps as early as when the term sheet, or Letter of Intent is approved. This can be easier said than done. The confidential nature of the deal needs to be protected, so tread lightly. Conversations with the principals of course, shouldn’t poise any issues. The acquirer will have to depend on the seller to provide as much information as they can, all the while maintaining privacy. One thing to be cautious of is bringing a potential suiter to visit the company after hours. Make sure that there aren’t folks still there, working late. They’ll see the seller escort the “suits” throughout the building, and it’ll only take minutes for the rumor mill to start.
The work sessions you’ll lay out will include building a 90-day transition plan. Depending on the structure of your business, you should identify your internal team that will work on the integration. That team can be you and those you can trust to keep this under wraps. These are some of the key areas that should be investigated and understood during this process. For all of these, you’re looking for synergies, conflicts, or gaps.
- Management philosophy – how do they run the business; how do they make decisions
- Corporate/management structure – what does their senior team look like
- Evaluate key personnel – ask the senior folks for a rundown on all the key personnel
- HR policies and procedures – how does it compare to yours
- MIS/IT integration – same MIS or different, which one survives
- Sales planning, compensation, strategies, and goals
- AR/AP policies and procedures
- Equipment and technology capabilities – is there overlap
- Estimating and pricing concepts and procedures
- Communications with employees, clients, and suppliers
- Employee and client retention – what is the plan
- Creating transition teams – from both sides
- Due diligence validation – trust, but verify
Checking items off this list is the easier part of the integration. Determining how you’ll resolve conflicts or gaps is the hard work. Too often I’ve seen these discussions get pushed aside, with the principals saying, “we trust each other, and we’ll figure these things out later.” Okay, but later often means never, or at least not until it’s a crisis. There’s no need to impose these self-inflicted headwinds onto the potential success of the deal.
Get your teams together, create your own checklist, and dive into the fun. Don’t put off having those difficult conversations – have them now. Planning for the success of the deal helps to ensure the intended benefits have a better-than-average chance of achievement.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions.