Seven Things To Watch Out For When Your Company Is Acquired
The acquisition was announced. Billions were spent to acquire the firm, and everyone smiled in disbelief that their successful startup was now going to be part of the acquirer. The synergies were obvious. They were promised nothing would change and that the acquired would run independently of the purchaser. All the people in the kingdom rejoiced for their good fortune. Now, time has passed, and while some of the obvious synergies are being implemented, there is some grumbling throughout the real
By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Originally Published on Forbes.com
The acquisition was announced. Billions were spent to acquire the firm, and everyone smiled in disbelief that their successful startup was now going to be part of the acquirer. The synergies were obvious. They were promised nothing would change and that the acquired would run independently of the purchaser. All the people in the kingdom rejoiced for their good fortune.
Now, time has passed, and while some of the obvious synergies are being implemented, there is some grumbling throughout the realm. A person was promoted into a more senior role who seemed to have earned it by selling deals they had little to do with, but they introduced them to the acquirer. No one knows how promotions are being done anymore. Training has been cut back. Some of the acquirer's sales team has been trained to sell the startup’s services, but not the other way around, of course.
This is a fairly common story in the acquisition world. The staff of the firm that has been acquired has been told that there will be no changes, but what has been conveniently omitted is how long it will remain that way. The fact is redundant people will be eliminated as will processes and assets. After all, "synergies" is just a positive spin on the term, “economies of scale.”
What can you do as an employee of a firm that has been acquired?
1. Find an accurate information source. Your manager may be so removed from the information pipeline as to be completely useless to you. Make sure you ask, “How do you know,” every time you are told something in order to flush out speculation from fact. If you can’t identify a useful information source, then ...
2. Pay attention to changes for their impact on you, your department, and your organization. Firms rarely complete acquisitions and let their new division operate independently forever. Eventually, change occurs in the form of new policies and procedures that take away benefits, change bonuses and/or commissions to be more in line with the buyer (usually lower), and help them recoup their investment through savings and increased profits on sales growth.
3. Work with the assumption that your job may be at risk. You may think your job is important, but my experience suggests that you may be a non-entity to the purchaser. Few employees are anything more than an employee ID number to the buyer. They see your salary as a potential cost-saving and your work as easily transferable to an existing employee or two. After all, if one software firm buys another, how many salespeople do you think they need to sell the product they bought? The answer is zero. The existing team can be trained on the product. How many support people? How many HR people? You get the idea.
4. Start reconnecting with your network of relationships. You don’t have to immediately start looking for a job. After all, why not wait off the first wave of fearful colleagues to leave voluntarily and wait to receive the offer of a buyout package?
5. Keep your head down when power struggles occur (as they inevitably will). Senior leaders may become engaged in what seems like an MMA-style deathmatch in the octagon with only one winner. Connecting too closely with one side or the other can cost you too much. As New England Patriot players are always reminded, “do your job.” Getting involved is a distraction that can prove costly.
6. If you manage or lead staff, keep them updated. If you don’t know the truth, don’t lie to them and tell them that their job is safe. Let them know what you know. Let them know how you are interpreting what you know and how it affects them. Love them enough to tell them the truth.
7. Proactively engage in capital conservation. The fact is, you may lose your job despite doing everything imaginable, through no fault of your own. Job hunting takes time, and you may need to have the financial staying power to ride out your job search. Being proactive with both cost savings and revenue enhancement (perhaps, starting a side business) will help you buy additional time to find a better situation. You, not your employer, are responsible for your career and your financial wherewithal.
Think of yourself as chairman of the board of a corporate entity with your husband/wife/partner or perhaps your kids sitting on the same board. Just as your employer will do what they believe is right for them when push comes to shove, you need to do the same. Don’t give up your responsibility to the other board members by trusting your employer. It isn’t that they aren’t trustworthy. You just don’t have the entire picture or plan. It's better to be prepared than to be shocked.
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