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How to Successfully Navigate a Merger or Acquisition


how-to-navigate-a-mergerDay after day I read about financial institutions of all sizes merging and acquiring one another. It happens so frequently that it almost seems commonplace—like merging two companies is not that big of a deal anymore. But, from my own experience, I know that's not the case. 

In 2012, our small business, National Insurance Protection, Inc. (NINPRO), was acquired by SWBC, and we are now proudly recognized as the company's Portland Service Center location. As with any acquisition, we experienced some growing pains along the way because, as you know, change is hard. Every company has a distinct culture, and having to assimilate is tough—almost like being dropped into a foreign country without knowing the language, customs, values, laws, etc. 

To help you get through a merger or acquisition, here is some advice I learned from my own experience:

For employees:

If you're lucky, surviving a merger or acquisition is simply about old-school networking and knowing the right people. But, if you're like most employees, keeping your job and maintaining your status within the company means working to prove to the new higher ups that you're flexible, motivated, and willing to fit in.

Even if you aren't 100% gung-ho about the takeover, you need to, as they say, "fake it 'til you make it." Your day-to-day performance is the only thing you can control in this type of situation, so if you plan on staying with your current employer, just do your best, keep a smile on your face, and save your frustrations for happy hour.

For managers:

Coaching your staff and making sure each of them know their value is key when dealing with any sort of change—but it's especially important when your organization is merging with or being acquired by another company. It's vital because your employees are the ones who will dictate whether or not your organization will be able to make the transition successfully. If you aren't letting them know how much you value them and their work, your employees may begin jumping ship the second there is any sort of issue or bump in the road. 

Constant communication and sharing information openly is also important, as fear will grow if employees are unaware of what's going on within the company. Have discussions with your direct reports regularly and provide frequent updates as changes happen—just like you would on any project. Sharing details with the individuals that support your business will prove to be valuable in the long run. Trying to make sure everyone stays positive may not be easy, but it is crucial and can only be accomplished when your employees aren't left to worry about what "could" happen. 

What you want is for your employees to thrive and become part of the new company culture, and there are things that can help facilitate that. A couple of suggestions are:

  • Give public praise to those who show they are for this transition—not against it

  • Champion those who work hard and show loyalty and dedication

  • Challenge your team to find ways they can use the new technology and resources available to them to make their job easier or better

  • Allow your employees to branch out, giving them the opportunity to take on a new responsibility that is much needed in the new organization

One of the things that quickly became apparent to my team was that we had strong support during our acquisition. We gained a lot in areas such as HR, legal, facilities management, and accounting. These were resources we never had available in-house, and many of us saw learning and career development opportunities all around us.

Our team adjusted and worked hard to navigate the new culture, and now we feel right at home as part of the SWBC family. You too can benefit by trying to understand the new company's culture, and in the meantime, be proactive, positive, and patient.

Have you successfully made it through a merger or aqcuisition? Share your advice on what to do (or not to do) in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.

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