Culture Change From Day One

All the due diligence has been done. You have dotted the I’s, crossed the T’s and on paper, everything looks good. Finally, after all the work … two companies are ready to become one. You have both spent countless hours negotiating the terms, you have come to head at times, but everything worked out in the end and the partnership feels strong.

The merger is about to finally happen. Your top leaders are all comfortable with the details, but there are rumors floating through the senior leadership ranks. They may be unsubstantiated, but they are there and the rumor mill is a flitter with them. There is talk of layoffs. There is talk of packages on the table for people willing to walk, and there are questions about who will ultimately run the company.

This is all going on before the deal has been publicly announced. Sure, there has been talk about why this deal would work for both companies. It has been speculated for a while that it was likely to happen, but the  leaders involved in the deal on both sides were fairly tight lipped. It feels like some of the rumors have gotten out of hand and have built angst amongst not only senior leaders but your employees at all levels.

And now it is officially day one. The two companies are about to embark on a new era of opportunity and it feels like the focus is on fear and pessimism instead of opportunity and advantage. Your about to go live across the country with your announcement. The cameras are synced, the audiences are lined up in conference rooms across your footprint and you are about to go face to face with a sea of people who, oddly to you, seem to be angry and disillusioned. What in the world is going on?

There were no talks of layoffs, there were no talks of offering packages, the talks truly only focused on how aligning the two companies would create a market differentiator. But somewhere in all the planning for this deal, and for this day, something had gone horribly wrong. Why?

These situations can easily get out of hand. If your not attuned to what is being said, what information is getting out or how people are speculating on what is happening, then you are giving up your ability to control information. Lack of information creates a vacuum that will ultimately be filled by rumors and hearsay.

When we look across the board at mergers and acquisitions, we see a lot of detail laid out on the P&L, on the revenue forecasts, expense reductions, etc. But most plans in our estimation fall flat on the people side. There is such tight control over information early on that people refuse to speak about what is happening.

But in today’s world, it is really difficult to keep anything airtight. Word gets out. Slowly at first and then it picks up speed. If you are not managing what that messaging is, it is being written for you. And it is becoming an omen to an anxious and uninformed minority that can flip the whole deal on its head.

It is an imperative that you get out in front, that you lead with one clear voice. That you set expectations and you build the policies and practices to support your efforts. Or you will likely be up against a sea of dismay and waves of angry faces.

 

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