Jake was so excited—an offer had come across his desk, by way of his attorney, that fulfilled most of his wishlist! The investor company said all the right things: they believed in the mission and vision, wanted to keep the employees in place and would keep the business operating from the small town where Jake was born and raised. His Dad had given his life to this business and while Jake wasn’t as willing to devote his every waking moment to Sandstone Industries, at least he wanted to see his father’s legacy live on.
Several years earlier, Jake had started thinking about his future. His youngest daughter was about to graduate from college and Jake, along with his wife Katherine, were beginning to consider a range of new options for their lives. Jake had grown up in the family biz and while he knew it well, it was never the spark that lit his soul on fire…it was just a gentle smolder that fed his family, provided for his employees and served as a placeholder in the local community.
Now, with the prospect of this investment group purchasing the company, Jake and Katherine might be able to finally buy the sailboat they had dreamed about and start sailing around the Pacific, visiting the northern reaches of Alaska in the summer and Hawaii and the Caribbean in the winter months. Finally, there was a chance to pursue a dream rather than adhere to a routine that was carved in stone a decade before Jake was even born.
However, as the negotiations played out, Jake found himself trying to balance his own personal dreams against the reality of the life he was inadvertently authoring for his employees—from managers to line staff. The investor group was keen and motivated and seemed to speak from the best interests of the organization…but it was also clear that they had definite expectations with regard to performance, management, and profitability. This was a different model and a different experience—for both Jake and the entire company.
Any company that has the opportunity to acquire or be acquired, must stop and consider the potential success of the acquisition. There are 5 key elements that are more likely to support to success if they are acknowledged and managed:
- Clearly define the organizational culture that has allowed the business(es) to be successful. How has this culture influenced decision-making, customer service, product development, and employee engagement/behavior?
- Identify how the two cultures are similar and/or different. What are the greatest strengths of each?
- How will management/leadership inculcate the organizational culture into day-to-day activities such as performance reviews, performance management, and internal and external communications? How might these practices change going forward?
- Clearly articulate the strategic potential of this new/combined business going forward. How can the business differentiate itself from competitors—both in vying for customers and for outstanding employees?
- What kind of leadership, in terms of attributes, style, and technical ability, will be key to the success of the business? Identify the key competencies and incorporate these into hiring and coaching practices.
While there are a host of additional tactics, without a clear understanding of culture and a willingness to work hard to integrate these cultural aspects into a plan to move forward, most acquisitions flounder and fail within a few years. Jake will go a long way to ensuring the success of this important transition if he and his potential investors will pay attention to these key questions. Then, Jake can set sail on his dream, and know that his company has become part of a truly blended organizational culture.