How To Manage Successfully During an Acquisition

BY C. Lee Smith
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Tom Ray is the executive vice president of Jim Doyle and associates. He's also the author of an Amazon bestseller, Branding is OUT, Results are IN! Lessons for the LOCAL Advertiser. During a recent ManageSmarter podcast, he shared his expertise on another important topic, how to manage through a major organizational change.

Managing Down

Few events shake an organization and employees’ confidence in managers more than a merger or acquisition. All of the rules, spoken and unspoken, that employees have been following are suddenly in flux. Employees are ruminating about what has happened and what might happen going forward. Managers in these situations must have a calming effect on the team, says Ray. 

Of course, you can’t tell your employees every detail of what’s happening. But to the extent that you are able to, be transparent. Your team members are accustomed to trusting you. During an ownership change, they need to feel that trust more than ever. If you truly don’t know what’s going to happen, be honest with them. 

Managing Up

Somebody always knows what’s going on during an acquisition. That person might not be you. The lack of information can be frustrating and frightening. In many buyouts, the acquiring company could be looking to buy only assets and not people. Or they may be interested in keeping on only a select few people.

If you’re interested in staying on with the new owners, start managing up. Work hard. Maintain a positive attitude. Show your openness to change and your ability to adapt. Think of the transition period between owners as an extended job interview. When you do the best job that you can, the higher-​ups will notice you and your department. The bottom line, Ray advises, is to “worry only about what you can control.”

Managing Customers

Part of doing your best work is managing customer relationships. An acquiring company always wants to maintain cash flow and that means keeping current customers happy. The customers will have heard about the changes in your organization. You want to send a consistent message to your customers. Develop talking points and review them with all employees who have customer contact. They should deliver the message that you are open for business, you’re stronger than before, you have more resources at your disposal and you’re now a better partner.

Yes, an acquisition or merger can be a challenging time. You can also use it to grow professionally and personally.