Bob Sprague joined a panel on “HR Considerations in Mergers & Acquisitions,” sponsored by Quantive Events, at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce February 12.
Bob could draw on his personal experience with the four mergers that have grown Yes& to its current 75 employees, along with assisting clients with the communications surrounding their own mergers and acquisitions beginning in 1988. The Exit Planning Institute meeting attracted about forty business sellers, buyers, and other interested parties.
Bob stressed that culture is by far the most important success factor in a business transition. Asked how he evaluates a culture fit in advance, when communication and access is limited by confidentiality, he described the “corporate lore”—stories and anecdotes related by sellers and their top confidants that provide a much more telling account of culture than typical mission/vision/values statements.
Once a merger or acquisition is announced, Bob stressed the need for immediate, super high-touch communication with the existing staff. “The new definition of the speed of light is how fast rumors travel within a corporation,” Bob said. Among the practices at Yes& are carefully crafted communications plans, prompt, one-on-one meetings with every staff member, presentations and show-and-tell by Yes& culture leaders, guarantees for employment and benefits equity, and sponsored social get-togethers within the first few days of the announcement.
Yes& continues to seek both organic growth and alliances with culturally compatible firms. The experience of four mergers helps Bob and his team to evaluate, plan for success or—not infrequently—make a decision to walk away.