Ron Zielinski from Coherent gives his tips on how to oversee an acquisition.
The odds are against you, Field Service Leader. Statistics vary, but you can assume your company has about a 1 in 4 chance of delivering on its promised enhanced business value through acquisition. Having worked through about a dozen integrations from small to relatively very large - these six keys for success have been powerful in their results.
Know and Communicate Your “Synergy Target” Early and Often
It’s simply a requirement for your business to seek value across the entire enterprise to reach its business goals. Field Service is not exempt, nor should it be. A synergy target can be as simple as a cost-savings target, but depending on the nature of the acquisition it may mean improving service levels, enabling new services or sparking additional service related revenue. A clear path to some portion of your target is usually clear, but a well-set target will require additional pathways be found. This is where keeping synergy vocabulary central to all your communications is key. Communicating this way to the integration project team builds confidence in your ability to deliver. Keeping synergy at the top of mind of your team may help reveal new paths and will definitely set expectations that they also need to deliver a targeted value.
Stay Tight with Your Integration Project Management Team
If you do not have such a team, advocate with all your power to create one. A good team will be push for key decisions, set timelines, review progress regularly, identify and track interdepartmental dependencies (especially huge in the latter stages of integration), ensure acquired sites aren’t overwhelmed with well-meaning visitors and mitigate a myriad of other risks. Team meetings offer a valuable communication vehicle for aligning the team and picking each other up when required. Dwight Eisenhower said that in preparing for battle “plans are useless but planning is indispensable”. Key personnel in the acquired company will not always understand intentions, may interpret discussions or activities oddly or even provide plan-busting information. The team can determine whether plans need changing, people need recalibrating or the record needs straightening.
Pick a “Number 2”
If your company’s strategy for growth includes acquisitions (plural), you need to be grooming a capable stand-in for you now. If you don’t have one when an acquisition hits, pick one anyway. If you’re lucky enough to have one, do not use your assistant for this. You want to groom someone to take on integrations for future (a great growth vehicle for high potentials) and you’ll be leaning on your assistant heavily to keep yourself moving at the speed of light. Your Number 2 will repeat/reinforce your messages, contribute to the integration project team when you are absent, communicate to you when perceptions need addressing, can handle the weekly reporting requirements for you and help you survive the challenge. They allow you virtually be in two places at once. Make it a priority to spend time with this person, whether routinely or if requested ad hoc.
Begin with The End in Mind, but also The Beginning.
Define your goals and plans for Day 1 (the day after the acquisition closes). Then define them for your desired end state. Oh, and don’t forget Day 100. Yes, your plans will be useless, but the planning will be indispensable. Day 1 should be about protecting the present value of your acquisition, mitigating risks (will any contractual obligations blow up? Are any key individuals “loose in the socket” and need attention? Will customers know who to call?). Pre-communicate telephone answering plans so customers hear what you want them to that day. One key here is not to be overaggressive. Visualize the two companies as adjacent two circles touching one another without overlap. Lastly, have your new organizational structure ready to go—people need to know to whom they report. If not Day 1, roll it out by Day 3.
Many key decisions need to be made in advance so you can visualize your end state. If you’re tightly integrating your new acquisition, ensure your end state reflects having met your synergy targets as well as your ongoing overarching business model. I’ve defined four key requirements to achieve for a tight integration: a common reporting structure, promoting common customer-facing behaviors (through managerial influence, training courses, or by promulgating your core values), using common systems (easier said than done) and aligning to common processes (and Key Performance Indicators [KPI’s--the results of process)).
Day 100 plans should be a milestone marker. How much overlap should your two circles have by then? Ensure these plans/goals align toward your end state. Be aggressive in what you can achieve early while the effort has momentum. Day 100 comes quickly. Be as aggressive as your fellow integration project team members here to keep an even pace across the enterprise.
Visit every site you acquire before you close the deal to meet the top management as well as your counterparts and key sales people. Start to building relationships. Sell yourself. Build trust. Have a great presentation telling your story. These human contacts cannot be underestimated and the ability to work through challenges later will depend on this effort. Then go back to your integration team and find out what messes you created as a result of misunderstanding or misaligned priorities. It will happen, hopefully only on a minor scale.
Eliminate certainty for every single person every day. I recognize this is not possible, but it should be your guiding principle through the entire effort.