Angelica’s latest article has been published in Khaleej Times, looking at how businesses can avoid glitches in their M&A process. Read the full piece here, or below.
Make communication and employment engagement a priority
Opting for M&A deals is powerful business strategy that can create weighty value for shareholders. It can also be a complex experience for senior management, employees and clients. By the end of the integration phases, it is rare for companies to find themselves on budget, on schedule, with all key talent retained and synergies realised. In fact, more than 70 per cent of M&A deals fail to create their expected value. Some of the main reasons for failure are lack of pre-planning, over-payment, poor communication, culture clashes, loss of key talent and a slow and inferior integration execution.
If you find that the vision of your deal is becoming unrealistic, how can you turn things around? Let’s explore indicators of the deal heading in the wrong direction and survival tactics. I’ll divide the integration process into three phases: Phase 1, the first three months post-announcement of the deal, Phase 2, the next three to six months of integration, and Phase 3, the rest of the time it takes to wrap up implementation based on your deal objectives.
This is an intense phase as decisions are being shaped and delivered, new roles are created and processes and systems are turned upside down. Without a clear vision and integration strategy on announcement of the deal, senior management quickly loses credibility. If you haven’t done so already, develop a sharp integration roadmap that includes goals, actions to be taken, by whom, by when, resources needed, risk assessment and milestones. Crucially, decide how to measure success.
This is the ‘me’ phase where the main concern of employees is “What will my future look like?” Avoid making statements early on such as “There will be no changes” as this is not realistic and will backfire. Without early answers, worries turn into insecurity and frustration.
Make communication and employment engagement priority. Develop external communication with clients, suppliers and media. Change management is also key in motivating people at all levels.
The most common complaint in mergers is “What is taking so long?” Inject some pace and urgency into delivering your decisions, even the tough ones.
The first vulnerable turn-over peak in a merger is during the first weeks of the integration process. To avoid losing your key talent to competition, you need to focus on talent retention. Identify your most valuable individuals and re-recruit them by offering higher salaries, merger specific reward programmes and incentives.
This phase often hits the organisation hard. You may feel you’re approaching stability but now is typically where most turbulence occurs. The global M&A consultancy Pritchett tellingly calls this stage ‘Death Valley’ and explains that “This is the danger zone where deals most easily start to die”.
Management may experience a sense of merger burnout. In addition, when senior management is initially formed, board members typically avoid airing any strong feelings of disagreement. But when energy runs out, nerves are on edge, bottled-up views are aired, and power battles around roles and responsibilities take the stage.
Meanwhile, employees are emotionally exhausted and tired from the extra workload integration brings. They talk about wanting to “go back to normal” and are critical of new colleagues and new ways. As a result, the integration begins to drag and productivity drops. A second turn-over peak often happens during this phase. People are desperate to see any positive results at this stage. Try to communicate quick-wins: a new logo, new clients and any-size concrete financial victory.
To maintain momentum in the merger, it is imperative that the board members show a strong and united leadership.
If your company managed to survive the dangers of Phase 2, chances are that you will enjoy a much smoother Phase 3. Here, threat levels drop significantly as implementation is carried out. An official closure celebration is a good investment in the future.
If you decide you have overpaid for an acquired company, the temptation is to squeeze more value from it to restore the expected synergies of the deal. Reneging on explicit or implicit financial terms of the deal could result in a decent deal turning bad. Focus instead on creating performance and shareholder value long-term.
The writer is founder of Aim Business Coaching. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.