Insider Tips from an M&A Advisor

Some M&A lessons can only be learned through hard-won experience—or from listening to a more experienced advisor.

The world of M&A is full of empty buzzwords and big promises. Yet the fast-moving world of M&A is increasingly embracing more substantive concepts, including change management, organizational alignment, and integration planning. Some M&A lessons can only be learned through hard-won experience—or from listening to a more experienced advisor. Here’s what you need to know. Heed this advice and you won’t have to learn these lessons the hard way.

Identifying Synergies Takes Work

It can be shocking how little effort goes into identifying millions of dollars worth of synergies. You can’t identify these benefits during a short outing, or on the back of a cocktail napkin. Instead, you need sound advice from someone who can guide you to accurately identify and quantify each potential area of synergy while discreetly developing plans that ensure your actions align with your goals.

You Can’t Plan an Integration Without Your Leadership

The C-suite often singlehandedly plans an integration without enlisting the assistance of key leadership. When the C-suite’s plans make their way down to the people who must actually implement them, the plans may go haywire—or you may be met with resistance and anger. The people charged with your daily operation understand what is likely to work and what won’t. Involve them early. Don’t forget about the importance of seeking employee buy-in, too. They own their work, and will ultimately be the ones following your plans. Make sure they're up to the task.

Integration Demands Your Full Attention

Leading an integration is a full-time effort. It’s not something you can shoulder someone with while they also must fulfill other roles. If you do, one or both roles will inevitably suffer. And if you try to lead it yourself, your business will suffer. Instead, invest in help from someone who can dedicate themselves full-time to the daily operations of the integration project. This expert should develop key plans, offer status updates at regular intervals, properly align your resources with the project’s goal, and measure success according to the synergistic aims you have established. For most businesses, the ideal person to fill this role is a professional M&A advisor or investment banker.

Know That Cultural Changes Are Difficult

Your culture is a big part of what makes your business what it is. It might be the primary, or even sole, reason your employees work for you. Of all change varieties, cultural changes seem to take the longest. Be realistic about this timeline, and develop a comprehensive change management plan that includes training plans and communication strategies. The time you invest in this will reduce the difficulties associated with making changes. And while the temptation to draw a line in the sand early can feel overwhelming, proceed with caution. Have patience, and give valued legacy employees a chance to buy into change. Cultural change is slow, and you should expect that the process of acceptance may likewise be slow.

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