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M&A Transition: How to Get Along

After completing an M&A deal, you should be ready to be a part of the culture of the acquired company. Be willing to partake in local customs, and be sensitive to special events and occurrences in the community. Nothing creates division as much as being (or appearing to be) oblivious and uncaring to someone else’s cherished rituals.

Being friendly with employees is important, of course, but don’t go overboard and act too familiar. You shouldn’t be standoffish or aloof, but employees are looking for a leader, not a best buddy.

To demonstrate the importance of considering local customs, consider this story. A Buyer acquired a company whose custom was to pay a $100 Christmas bonus to all employees. When the Buyer gathered the employees for an announcement after the particularly difficult acquisition, the employees were worried that the new owner, a large PE firm, would cut that annual goodie.

Instead, the new owner announced the Christmas bonus would continue, and that each employee would also receive a special bonus of $500, paid immediately. Although paying people a bonus is no guarantee of making friends, continuing the annual bonus and adding a special bonus made talking about increasing the accountability of employees and discussing how employees would be compensated and rewarded for achieving goals much easier.

No matter what you do, you’re going to irritate someone. You can’t manage a business trying to please everyone. Don’t worry about it.

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