Mergers and acquisitions can seem like an early episode of the Brady Bunch. Two families — businesses — are brought together under one roof, and now they face the sometimes uncomfortable, uncertain reality of learning how to live together and thrive both individually and jointly as a family.
Sure, now young Bobby and Cindy have new playmates in each other, Mike and Carrol have more help in their older kids Greg and Marcia — everyone brings unique, new capabilities and strengths to the household. But within that, there is often a threat of individual resistance, of role confusion or outright mutiny to change.
Though often with a merger or acquisition, employees remain separated by location and no one is expected to truly see one another as a family — despite due diligence, if there is not an adherence and assimilation to a singular and uniting mission, negative impacts can ensure.
The Assimilation Pitfalls of Mergers and Acquisitions
The first threat would be nothing changes; the two companies do not experience any growth despite the combined effort. The second would be confusion and missed opportunities, and potentially failed quotas. The third would be disruption, maybe a loss in sales, marketing or other market-facing professionals.
This would be like the Brady boys pretending the girls didn’t exist and taking over their bedrooms as their own. Like the Brady kids not understanding that they must respect Bobby as much as they respect Cindy. Or, as if the Brady kids ran away from the new household altogether.
Often the real issue comes with leadership’s relaxed stance on assimilating workforce. “The teams were performing well prior to the M&A — they will continue on well while we figure everything out.”
Yet, this is no way to experience real revenue growth. And if your leadership team is not looking toward substantial growth as a performance indicator, the question begs to be asked: What was the point of the M&A in the first place?
In a period of “figuring things out,” your marketing, product and sales teams can feel confusion about their new roles. There will be no formal guide for up-selling or cross-selling the new products, and any attempts made will not have a unified, compelling value proposition that was created to resonate with audiences. New buying audiences’ doors will remained closed to your combined teams. Misalignment will run amok. Or worse, complacency will set in, with the all-too-easy mindset of “us” versus “them” — rather than the “we” your companies have become.
Serve Your Teams to Serve Your Buyers
The time to onboard and assimilate your new teams is not six months or a year after the M&A has been finalized. It is as soon as possible. It is now.
This means strategic planning, training sessions, follow-ups. It means you must:
- Command a joint value proposition and messaging framework — and get buy-in from all your salespeople, marketing people, product teams and even lighthouse clients (hint: think client advisory council).
- Treat your expanded sales team as one team, and enable them on your company and common culture, sales methodology and sales operations foundation as such.
- Cross-train salespeople on new solutions — and practice buyer scenarios that will lead to up-sells and cross-sells. Then, repeat and reinforce.
- Set up clear expectations and a system of accountability.
The success your teams have experienced in the past is no longer relevant. You are a new company — an enhanced company with a higher order value to bring to your clients. And as you are pushing your sellers to realize substantial revenue growth from this new joint venture, be sure you are avoiding these five common pitfalls that threaten to derail your future deals.