How To Navigate a Merger or Acquisition

ChelseaWilliams
By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Apr 5 2023 read
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Knowledge Exchange is a weekly series of educational articles that we encourage you to share and discuss with your colleagues and network. This month, we’re offering advice for enduring common business changes.

Change is scary yet necessary for business development and growth, and a merger or acquisition can be one of the biggest, most disruptive and impactful changes that can happen to a company. 

Some business leaders and their employees may feel optimistic at the thought of having access to new resources or powerful potential, while others may worry about the unknown.

Mergers and Acquisitions: A Growth Play 

Despite the worry, many business owners go for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as a means of achieving quick growth. When trading time for money, adding more resources (specifically, human capital) is the only way to handle more client work. In contrast, individual hiring for dedicated roles is a slow, imperfect process — especially if you factor in turnover happening simultaneously.

Thus, a lot of service professionals have used M&A as a scaling tool. Global PMI Partners reports that in the five years since 2018, there have been approximately 5,000 M&A transactions per year, resulting in an average global annual spend of $225 billion.   

While these numbers indicate that professional services businesses are successfully growing, they don’t tell us how to navigate an M&A to grow in the long term. The trend begs a few questions:

  • How do you maintain or establish a lasting, positive company culture in an M&A environment?
  • What short-term changes help reap the benefits of scaling long-term?
  • How will client relationships be impacted by the transaction, and what will keep them strong?

Let’s address what you can do now, as you prepare for and walk through a merger or acquisition, to reduce the chances of running into roadblocks in the aftermath. 

Acknowledge the Magnitude of Change

Feeling nervous about what the future holds pending a merger or acquisition is normal. New partners, processes and people can breed confusion and even threaten the stability of your business and your job. 

Under these high-pressure circumstances, many leaders experience common change management mistakes.

To avoid these missteps and help your business or department prepare, take conscious corrective action. Face each of your worries head-on and devise an appropriate solution. 

Review Your Most Urgent Concerns

Depending on the nature of the business and services you offer, you could be uneasy about any number of specific things. The following are five of the most probable.

  1. Keeping up with current client projects. It’s understandable that your first priority during a merger or acquisition would be to ensure that existing work continues as planned. 
  2. Process adaptations. When your business grows quickly, there’s the immediate challenge of fitting new team members into your existing processes — or adopting theirs. 
  3. Unintentional inefficiencies. If you don’t have a deliberate plan for meshing teams and processes, it’s easy for bottlenecks to arise. Unfortunately, these and other examples of inefficiency may not be apparent right away.
  4. Initial costs. For a merger, you might incur a significant amount of one-time training or human resources expenses when bringing on many new employees at once. In an acquisition, there are likely to be costs associated with acquiring customers.
  5. Cultural adjustments. It’s smart to get new staff on board with your company values and internal protocol, which will require direct, effective communication.

READ NEXT: Customizable Process Automation Facilitates a Smooth Company Expansion 

The Path to Process Consistency

Whatever your unique list looks like, prioritize addressing your top few concerns as early as possible. With the major worries taken care of, you’ll be less ruffled by additional unknowns — which are likely to crop up in a period of great change.

Let’s look at some best practices for achieving consistency amidst a merger or acquisition.

Bring it back to basics with an SOP

Unsurprisingly, getting more organized will help your business ride the waves of change with finesse. One of the fundamentals you won’t want to overlook if you’re preparing for a big change? Standard operating procedures (SOPs). And we’re not talking about the workflows that make your projects possible (although those are helpful, too). 

An SOP is more focused on the internal workings of the business, which act as the foundation for your client work. These detailed procedures include how department meetings are conducted, when to use particular modes of communication and who’s responsible for approvals. It might be a traditional concept, but the SOP has long been a norm in business for a reason: You have to get the wheels turning before you can try to reach your destination.

How to accomplish this with Accelo: Once you’ve decided on the basics of your SOP, you can make the details less overwhelming by setting up custom triggers.

Establish a way to track all communication

Depending on the size of the business and your leadership style, you may or may not have a handle on how your team interacts with clients. When your organization restructures, it’s key to keep a finger on the pulse of both internal and external communication, especially as it relates to client work.

If you want to have any hope of holding onto your existing clients and meeting the needs of newly acquired ones, you need consistency and visibility. Create a list of examples of language the business has historically used with clients and prospects, then give your entire team a way to align in how they speak to clients. A consolidated, client-focused platform like Accelo offers built-in solutions for this type of transition.

How to accomplish this with Accelo: If you haven’t already, it’s time to set up email syncing. Tracking a client’s entire history is easy when all of your emails live in the Activity Stream. 

Commit to transparency above all

Employee sentiment should be another strong focus of merger or acquisition prep. Culture doesn’t start to matter only after two businesses fuse together and are forced to figure it out. On the contrary, having a solid set of company values and paying attention to current employees can help reduce anxiety and employee turnover as you enter this critical period.

Transparency, especially about the upcoming merger or acquisition, can get your team on the same page. It's especially vital to prioritize direct communication if you're blending remote cultures.

The above elements support stable processes in all areas of business by giving leaders and employees the same known sources of truth.  

 

Short-Term Sacrifice, Long-Term Gain

What does it look like to be truly ready for change? The CEO of GIANT Creative, Andrew Stephenson, took an enthusiastic approach to change management when his results-driven marketing agency was acquiring another business and implementing Accelo simultaneously. He chose to cease client work for two days to fully commit to training the newly expanded team on how to get the most out of the platform. Less than one month after going live, Andrew saw a tangible increase in internal communication efficiency.

 

 

No matter the size or newness of your team, find ways to optimize efficiency in our latest guide.

The Lean Team Strategy: A Guide to Thriving for Under-Resourced Service Businesses - Download Now

Tech as a Change Mitigator

There is no objective answer as to whether M&A is the best scaling method for any one business, but your response as a leader or individual contributor can make it a favorable choice.  

Along with a values-driven operational plan for managing change, you need to have the practical infrastructure to reduce any potential negative impacts. 

A fully utilized, client-focused tech stack that supports process automation offers:

  • Critical visibility across all roles and departments in a merger
  • Essential project tracking and contracting in an acquisition
  • Accurate, real-time reporting for both scenarios 

You already have this at your fingertips if you’re using Accelo. If your business is currently going through a merger or acquisition — or might in the future — we recommend you reach out to your Customer Success Manager to see how we can help you and your team navigate this business change. 

Think your colleagues would find this article valuable? Head over to LinkedIn to share and discuss the changes impacting your business.

If you work in professional services and your organization is going through some big changes, find out how Accelo could offer invaluable support. Sign up for a free trial or schedule a demo.

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About the Author

ChelseaWilliams

Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

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