DILEMMA: What a great feeling - I've been up all night celebrating the completion of our first acquisition. I had no idea the deal would take such an effort. Now comes the fun bit, integrating the two businesses and making sure it was worth the money. What should my priorities be?
ISSUES: If you've only just started thinking about integration now, you've probably blown it. So you must have had an integration plan, as well as someone to manage it.
From the start, control and communication are paramount and there's nothing like physical presence to manage both. It is hard to get effective control without clear communication, so decide what you're communicating, as well as to whom and how.
Sometimes the reasons for buying can become fuzzy once you've stopped reciting them to your backers. Don't assume that because they are obvious and attractive to you, your team will feel the same. You need a mantra for the deal and you should be clear about the advantages for your best people. Clarity over key positions is vital. It is too easy to fudge and forget that your own senior people may feel as insecure as those in the business you're buying.
The way you deal with anyone leaving sends strong signals to everyone else, particularly if the vendors are going. If they are staying, however, make sure you know what their new role is.
Getting control doesn't just relate to financial issues, it means managing key customer and supplier relationships and critical IT systems. What will you do if systems are incompatible?
While there is an obvious need to radiate confidence and to get on with it, avoid 'conquering hero' syndrome and making rash decisions, particularly where people are concerned. Moving people about speeds up integration and increases learning, but it also causes disruption. And make sure you know what you're going to do about the salary-differential timebomb.
- Make time.
- Speak to a friend who has done a successful acquisition and borrow their integration plan.
- Get control.
- Remember why you've done the deal.
- Over-communicate and get your mantra sorted out ahead of teething problems.
- Avoid conquering hero syndrome.
- Record the experience so you can learn for the next one.