Archive for September, 2009

What to do first if your company’s being acquired?

Posted on 19 September 2009. Filed under: Tips & Suggestions |

You wake up one morning and you read that your company is being acquired.  Aside from the shock of hearing this, your first thought (other than ‘OMG!’ and ‘Is this a dream or am I really awake already?) usually is:  ‘What should I do if my company’s being acquired?’

That IS the right question.  What DO you do when you hear you’re company’s being acquired.  From the start, never ignore it.  Ultimately, what you heard or read may not be true, but don’t count on your luck at this point.  The announcement may be true but then never happen because ultimately the CEOs or the Board couldn’t agree on the deal with the purchaser.  Or the purchaser walks away.  Or maybe the government came in to stop it (something more common in some countries such as France, but don’t count on a government rescue if you’re in the US or UK).  It therefore may never happen, but then again it might, and you haven’t wasted too much time or energy if you assume that it will and you turn out to be wrong.

There is a whole book written about what you should do when you hear the news that you’re company is being (or might be) acquired.  But assuming you didn’t expect it and therefore have to take action NOW before you can get your hands on a copy of that book, you might want to consider the following:

First, don’t assume that anyone in the company will take care of you.  Even your boss … and maybe even especially your boss.  Unless your manager is part of the inside circle that designed the acquisition, he or she may actually know less than you do about what will happen.  That may be counter-intuitive, but too often true.  Similarly, the higher up in the organisation you are, the more likely you will be made redundant, so your boss is actually MORE likely than you to get fired.

Second, prepare for the worst.  Do not put all your eggs in one basket (an internal opportunity).  So much changes during an M&A deal even after announcement that despite the fact that you might have been promised a position in the new organisation, the situation may change rapidly and the offer is withdrawn.  Have an exit plan.  Think about what you would do if you did lose your job, and then position yourself accordingly.  Just in case.  Consider it as your employment insurance policy, and invest some time in it.

Third, take proactive steps to protect your job.  The second half of the Surviving Mergers book has numerous suggestions about which actions others have found to be effective when their companies were acquired, but only you know best your own situation.  Offense is the best defense.

And when you’ve succeeded, please do come back here to this Surviving Mergers blog and let us know what worked for you so that others can use your ideas as well.  Or if your plan didn’t work, let us know as well so that others can avoid doing the same.  Thanks!

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This wave of M&A deals: Who will be made redundant now?

Posted on 17 September 2009. Filed under: Tips & Suggestions |

Strategic acquisitions are once again headline news with the announcement of a number of massive deals on both sides of the Atlantic (see the blog entry in a sister website:  Has the M&A market returned?  Green shoots turn into harvest time…’).

Wait a few weeks or months, and the headlines will talk more about the people who will be (or are already) being made redundant from those deals.  As naturally as dusk follows day and water flows downhill, the merger of two companies results in people being fired, plants and offices closed, product lines shut down or merged and one of the two CEOs (plus one of the two CFOs, HR heads, Senior VPs for IT, etc) taking ‘early retirement’ or departing ‘for personal reasons’ and later showing up at a lesser well-regarded competitor.

Is there anything you can do about this if you’re one of the people in a company where a merger has just been announced?  Yes, there definitely is.  And you should – because on average 10-15% of employees across both companies will be made redundant or leave because of the deal, and the figure can be as high as one-third.

The first thing you need to do is to decide whether you really want to stay — or should you take the (often very attractive) redundancy or severance package and find another job.  But assuming you want to stay…

There are many steps you can take to stay, as discussed in that book, ranging from ‘showing off’ your (hopefully) excellent work (and going against the natural tendency to ‘stay low’ at a time like this), increasing your internal networking and even volunteering for the planning and transition teams.

If the M&A market has truly started growing again and if we really are therefore at the start of a new strong M&A wave, then many people will be faced with the need to ‘survive’ in a way that they hadn’t anticipated.  Best to get started now with some planning, even if you feel your company isn’t at risk.  Do you think most of the employees at Cadbury anticipated the need to plan an acquisition survival strategy in 2009? Or did Mavel’s employees expect that they’ll need superhuman skills to retain their jobs in 2010?

[Note:  you can find a variation of this posting on my other blog, Intelligent Mergers]

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Book Review: ‘Surviving Mergers’ from The Times, 2 September 2009

Posted on 3 September 2009. Filed under: About the book / weblog, Articles on surviving an acquisition |

There was an excellent summary and review by Emily Ford of the Surviving Mergers:  Make the most of your company being acquired book in the 2 September 2009 issue of The Times and also available on-line here.  She entitled her review ‘In a merger, survival can depend on you’, which is certainly true, yet often not understood by most employees.  Clearly, as the M&A markets are showing strong signs of revival, this is even more important even than when the book was published less than two months ago.

Emily wrote in the article that ‘The spectre of a merger is enough to send a chill down the spines of most employees — with good reason. Mergers always carry a risk of redundancies: on average, 10 to 15 per cent of employees across both organisations lose their jobs in a merger, sometimes as many as a third. Even those who keep their jobs are likely to be fearful of the change to the status quo.’

She goes on to write:

‘In a book just published, Surviving M&A: Make the Most of Your Company Being Acquired by Scott Moeller, director of the M&A Research Centre at Cass Business School in London, explains how to improve your chances of keeping your job, based on 350 interviews with employees who have been through M&A deals. “The first question you need to ask yourself is: ‘Do you want to stay?’ ” Professor Moeller said. “A merger might be the best time to leave.”’

The article includes 10 of the key pieces of advice to reduce your ‘risk of being made redundant in a merger’ if you do decide that you want to fight for your job.  It also notes that ‘Workers in Britain, America and the Netherlands are more at risk of being made redundant than those in Germany, France and Japan, thanks to employment legislation differences.’    But, as she adds at the end,

‘Despite your best intentions, things might not work out. If you plan to stay at your company, go to a few interviews anyway to test the market and work out your value. “Mergers are unpredictable. Remaining flexible will give you more options,” Professor Moeller said.’

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