Sometimes the best lessons in life are the ones we learn from others. This allows us to share in their knowledge without the pain and frustration of going through what they experienced. This is especially true in the M&A arena.
I recently came across a well written, post-merger essay written by a fellow who took the leap and acquired one of his competitors in order to grow his business. Written by Ian Fergusson and aptly entitled, “Lessons Learned During a Merger,” Mr. Fergusson is quite open with his experience in making a very timely acquisition. And in the end, even though it turns out that the move was a success, it was not without some hiccups along the way.
Here was his biggest miscue, according to Fergusson:
In hindsight, I think the biggest mistake I made was to agree to keep this sale completely confidential until the deal was confirmed and I had officially taken over. This meant the first time I met any of the employees they were already on my payroll. There had been no opportunity to meet existing employees, interview the office staff, or gain any insight into systems and processes prior to the day of the merger.
The issue of confidentiality and the best time to inform your staff is a real challenge we face with every transaction. In some cases, our deal teams counsel that as early as you can, you need to bring your key players on board, as well as the acquired team’s vital folks, before the transaction takes place if possible. However, in other circumstances, it may be better to wait until the transaction closes to inform staffs of either firm.
The key, of course, is flexibility and an understanding of the dynamics of your team and the group you are acquiring. In Mr. Fergusson’s case, clearly it would have been better to at least inform key employees of both groups in advance to smooth the transition. Some deal makers will actually encourage both seller and buyer to set up transition teams well in advance of the deal closing. These groups are usually comprised of vital, trusted employees who are empowered to begin exploring key conversion items before the deal closes so that they can be addressed in advance and not “surprise” the management team post-acquisition.
One factor to keep in mind if you are planning an acquisition event is this: Every company’s culture is unique. This is especially true of privately held businesses, many of which take on the personality, image, and make-up of the founding entrepreneur. In order to better enable a merger event, you need to take stock of this and make sure that the culture you are acquiring meshes with yours.
For example, if your business is highly formalized, consisting of extensive policies, procedures, manuals and documentation on how work is supposed to be conducted, any company you acquire will need to be similar, otherwise, you may have a painful transition as you help your newly acquired employees understand that now things are being documented as never before.
The opposite scenario is true as well: If your business is less formalized, if you give employees tremendous latitude in their daily operations, acquiring a more formalized operating business could be a challenge.
Neither system is better than the other, what works is what works for you; however, you have to be cognizant of the fact, pre-acquisition, that your company’s culture could be radically different than the target’s you are acquiring (and vice versa, the environment you are selling could be different than the one acquiring). Mr. Fergusson learned this lesson the hard way and survived; however, clearly if a transition team had been created in advance, the painful transformation to the new company could have been ameliorated a bit.
Of course there is no such thing as a “perfect” post-transaction merger. Let’s face it: Companies are comprised of people, all imperfect, and because of this human factor, even perfect preparation and planning can go askew. However, you can learn from the Fergussons of the world and realize that your post-transaction success can be dramatically impacted by when and how much you divulge to your crucial employees on both sides of the acquisition table. And, the concern about telling employees in advance of the closing could be further mitigated if current ownership would be remaining on after the sale.
The great news is that Generational Equity and its deal teams have collectively seen just about every post-transaction challenge out there. We can’t guarantee post-closing success – too much is out of our control once the deal is done. However, we can help our clients see and plan for hurdles that may arise. This is an important benefit of hiring us. We simply have seen it all via our hundreds and hundreds of closed deals. Here are some fundamental insights from our clients:
Bottom line: Don’t trust your post-merger victory to chance. If you are planning to exit or acquire (or both) within the next 3-5 years, you need to reach out to us. Generational Equity has the M&A experience, knowledge, and insight to greatly add to your post-transaction success.
Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity, part of the Generational Group.
© 2016 Generational Equity, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Bruce and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Generational Equity for assigning Musa Jagne to our transaction. In Bruce’s words, “Musa did one hell of a job for us!”Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
Tom Staszak is one of the most professional people I have dealt with in my last forty years of business. You’ve got a great group of people and you have built a truly professional organization.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We are extremely pleased with the way Generational Equity handled the sale of our company. Your associates, Tom and Chris, did an outstanding job of getting us (me) through the process.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
We will highly recommend Generational Equity and Musa Jagne to any business owner about to embark on the same process.Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
Thank you again for all your guidance and support. Any company will achieve what they intend, if they have you on their team!Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Thanks again Phil and feel free to have a future client call me if they would like a referral. You are a true professional!Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Michael and Deborah. We couldn’t have done it without them.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.Pete L.
The information we learn from customers helps us personalize and continually improve your experience. Here are the types of information we gather.
We receive and store any information you enter on our Web site or give us in any other way. We do not sell or rent your personal information to others without your consent. We use the information we collect only for the purposes sending promotional information, enhancing the operation of our site, serving advertisements, for statistical purposes and to administer our systems. We DO NOT use third parties to provide customer service, to serve site content, to serve the advertisements you see on our site, to conduct surveys, to help administer promotional emails, or to administer drawings or contests, but reserve the right to do so in the future without advance notice.
By submitting my name electronically and clicking the “submit” button, I understand that I am providing Generational Group, Inc., Generational Equity, LLC, Generational Capital Markets, LLC, DealForce LLC, their affiliates, representatives, contractors, etc. (“Generational Group”) my telephone number, which may include a number that is wireless and/or a number that is on a national, state, or other Do Not Call registry or list. I hereby consent and agree to receive telephone calls including any autodialed and/or pre-recorded telemarketing calls and/or text messages (telemarketing) from or on behalf of Generational Group at the telephone number provided. I further consent and agree that telephone calls may be made using automated technology such as an automatic telephone dialing system, artificial or prerecorded voice, or SMS text messaging. Consent is not a condition of purchase. I further warrant and represent that any telephone number provided is not on any state or national Do Not Call Registry and that by agreeing to these terms and conditions that if any number provided is on any such registry, I hereby consent and agree to receive telemarking calls and/or communications including any phone calls, text messages, URLs, links, emails, etc. to the telephone number(s) and/or any e-mail addresses provided. I understand that by entering my name in the electronic form provided, that I am signing my name as equally as if it was my handwritten signature and that it is my intent to provide an “electronic signature” as that term is defined in state and federal law, as well as industry practices for e-commerce.
For reasons such as improving personalization of our service, we might receive information about you from other sources and add it to our account information.
Generational Group may license the use of its intellectual property including but not limited to its name, likeness, and logo for the use of affiliated offices. Such affiliated offices may not be owned, controlled, managed, supervised or staffed by employees, officers, or agents of Generational Group. Affiliated offices may be independently owned and operated. For more information about a particular office, please contact Generational Group at its office in Dallas, Texas.
This page may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information, the terms of which must be observed and followed.
Information on this web site may contain technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Information may be changed or updated without notice. Generational Group may also make improvements and/or changes in the products and/or the programs described in this information at any time without notice.
Generational Group does not want to receive confidential or proprietary information from you through our web site. Please note that any information or material sent to Generational Group will be deemed NOT to be confidential. By sending Generational Group any information or material, you grant Generational Group an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit and distribute those materials or information, and you also agree that Generational Group is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques that you send us for any purpose.
Our computer system protects personal information using advanced firewall technology.
Information Generational Group publishes on the World Wide Web may contain references or cross references to other products, programs and services that are not announced or available in your country. Such references do not imply that Generational Group intends to announce such products, programs or services in your country. Consult a Generational Group representative for information regarding the products, programs and services which may be available to you.
Generational Group makes no representations whatsoever about any other web site which you may access through this one. When you access a non-Generational Group web site, please understand that it is independent from Generational Group, and that Generational Group has no control over the content on that web site. In addition, a link to a non-Generational Group web site does not mean that Generational Group endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content, or the use, of such web site. It is up to you to take precautions to ensure that whatever you select for your use is free of such items as viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other items of a destructive nature.
IN NO EVENT WILL Generational Group BE LIABLE TO ANY PARTY OR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL OR OTHER CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES FOR ANY USE OF THIS WEBSITE, OR ON ANY OTHER HYPERLINKED WEBSITE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY LOST PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, LOSS OF PROGRAMS OR OTHER DATA ON YOUR INFORMATION HANDLING SYSTEM OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF WE ARE EXPRESSLY ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
Furthermore, all information contained within this website is the property of Generational Group.
Honored to win Investment Banking Firm of the Year 3 years running.
Over 50 awards and counting.
Sign up to receive regular email updates, industry-leading insights and details on complimentary M&A executive conferences in your area from our award-winning team
Success, you have been added to our list.