If your next acquisition is a firm with one or more branch offices, don’t forget about them when it comes to integration! Even smaller branch offices can create some integration problems if they are forgotten about or cast aside. You should always assume that your competition will be actively trying to scoop up some of the acquisition’s best employees and best clients…and some of these may be quietly tied to a branch office.
If you can think about and follow through on these three elements of post-integration planning (particularly with respect to branch offices), you can go a long way towards making the acquisition a success:
People. Be inclusive, be transparent, be fast. This means getting on airplanes to get face-time at the branch offices and engaging leaders and managers at the acquired firm who can really be deal evangelists after you head back home. This isn’t just about conveying a big picture strategic plan for growth. This is about winning hearts and minds throughout the acquired organization. The further one is from the deal epicenter, the more likely they are to assume negative acquisition implications. Whenever we hear a project manager – someone with loads of client-facing responsibility – say something like “I knew the acquisition closed when I saw the new business cards on my desk”, we think nothing but missed opportunity and poor communication.
Process. Of course, instilling and maintaining one firm-wide culture is the end goal. But, you need to start somewhere to make this happen. Every organization has its own culture…some simply refer to it as “the way things are done around here.” Assuming you’ve vetted out that the fundamentals of a compatible culture are there, getting some process in place for a consistent client and employee experience starts with a detailed integration plan. And, for any integration plan to be worth more than the paper it is written on, it needs clear accountability and deadlines. You may have heard how Apple is famous for its “DRI model” on every project – large and small. That is, every single task has a Directly Responsible Individual. This is how things get done…and, as a result, this is a big factor in not just talking about a single firm-wide culture, but actually delivering on it.
Power. This is about establishing and sticking to a clear organization structure with agreed-upon responsibilities and reporting relationships. This rings particularly true at the branch office level. Branch office managers need to clearly understand what the expectations are and also the resources (e.g. business development support, technical competencies, etc.) that they now have at their fingertips to be more successful. This can be a huge issue when the branch office is located thousands of miles away.
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