M&A Survival Guide

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Mar 19, 2018 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Trends

If you work for a conglomerate or a large firm of any type, you are likely to face a merger and acquisition at some point, maybe several times within the span of a few short years when an industry is in flux. It's helpful to your sanity to understand some of the things that are likely to happen.

Individual managers and their employees face the disruption of day-to-day routines. As the workday goes flying up in the air, you may find yourself going to transition meeting, getting new work and struggling just to get your bearings. As an employee, you'll hear executives and M&A consultants refer to “post-merger integration” and "rightsizing." For you, other words might better capture the experience: tension, chaos, and fear.

Do I Still Work Here?

At least you'll be busy. Workloads grow heavier during this time, when everyone, including your boss, is trying to prove their worth. You don't have a lot of time to adapt to new practices, politics, and policies. Even if you work for the acquisition company, lots of things can change as the entire enterprise adopts the best practices of both companies. After all this uncertainty and additional effort, you don't know if you'll remain an employee or join the 30 percent of workers classified as redundant post-merger.

How Can You Survive Whatever Happens Next?

If you're like most people, you fixate on things beyond your influence. Let all that go. Unless it's up to you who stays and goes, gets promoted, or relocated, this isn't helpful thinking. You have more power over your fate than you realize. Your company's merger is just one of many thousands that occur every year. So, there are ways to survive and thrive. Which of these strategies do you think is most effective?

  • Keep your head down, do your work and try not to get noticed by the axman.
  • Get your resume ready, start living on LinkedIn and hit the job boards.
  • Embrace the change. You won't get to experience this intense energy often or ever again. Learning and change can invigorate you and even give you a fresh start.
The last option is the most constructive reaction. 

SWOT Analysis

To get a better handle on your chances, conduct a SWOT analysis to examine your strengths and weaknesses as well as your opportunities and threats. Make yourself a valuable employee by volunteering for work that moves the transition forward. Yes, this makes you more visible, it's a risk. However, the alternative is letting strangers determine your fate. Highlight any experience you have in project management, collaboration, and innovation, then make sure to get the information in front of the right people.

It's natural to feel anxious, and you don't have to hide your feelings all the time. One way to keep calm is to assess the situation. Some mergers don't impact employees, and others wait to make changes, especially if either side of the deal is in the middle of a fiscal close. However, this isn't the norm, so it's safe to assume some change is coming.

Try a well-known exercise called a SWOT Analysis that helps you identify where you can shine and where you might need to improve your skillsets.

  • Strengths. What is it about yourself and your career that can serve as an asset? Consider interpersonal skills, technical expertise and any unique knowledge you have about a key business line. Ask yourself if you are a valued part of the company network, within the industry and with suppliers and customers. Make a list of what construes you as a keeper.
  • Weaknesses. Most people find it easier to identify weaknesses than strengths. This isn't the time to coddle yourself. List everything that could work against you during the integration. Do you act out when stressed? Does uncertainty give you hives? Do you have a hard time getting to know and trust people? Do you have rivals who would like to see you fail?
  • Opportunities. Find potential landing spots post-merger. Can you contribute in product areas, business development, sales and marketing or operations? Would you be happy in a new role? Is there a clear path to advancement? Will the merger solidify your company's place in the industry, as well as its financial standing? How do these impact you?
  • Threats. Where will cuts likely take place? Do you have a corporate position (legal, HR, communications), or are you part of the business the other company is better at? More importantly, is the new company turning into a place you still want to work?

Take Advantage of Growth Opportunities

You can maximize growth opportunities associated with the M&A by getting involved in the integration in areas that showcase your skillset. For example, most mergers involve a transition structure, which is a temporary team of several task forces. Try to join a team that needs your skills, because if you take part in this work, you can help define the new company dynamics, as well as build up your innovation, project and collaborative skills.

  • Execution. As part of the integration team, you get to impact a transition plan and help make it happen. This involves identifying critical tasks and nice-to-have tasks. By dealing with obstacles, measuring results and performing an array of other execution skills, you also deepen those skills, which makes you valuable to companies going through the same thing.
  • Innovation. This can be an exciting time of change, opened up by the merger. Individuals that normally have no access to the C-suite find themselves delivering presentations. If this describes you, then use the opportunity to be noticed.
  • Collaboration. A merger forces required collaboration, which might be uncomfortable if you are used to working primarily on your own. However, the infusion of energy that results from merging a diverse group of people broadens not just your horizons but your thinking. Interact with those who speak other languages and have vastly different viewpoints. Some of these people won’t want to work with the team, and that’s a learning opportunity too.

In short, a merger lets you highlight and build skills that you don’t often get to practice. Try to enjoy the ride.

Finding an Opening for Transition Teams

You have to be diligent and identify an opportunity to tell transition managers that you want to join a team. Don’t assume it’s by invitation only. Unfortunately, talking to your supervisor may not be the best way to find an opening on a transition team. In the midst of an M&A, managers can be some of the most nervous employees, wondering what their future holds. It’s not likely they will be doing a lot of mentoring to subordinates that could be potential rivals in the new world order.

It’s fine to initiate a conversation with a boss who is supportive, but don’t expect them to champion your cause. That’s your job. Seek out trusted colleagues who’ve been tapped or even to HR, since they are typically close to ongoing changes. The integration manager can be a great resource if you can get their ear.

If you get wind that the CEO or other executive is preparing a roadmap, offer to help, even if it’s just plugging in information. You will still learn a great deal about the process and upcoming changes at your location.

If you aren’t self-confident enough to do it on your own, ask a trusted co-worker to give you a pep talk before a key meeting where you have access to transition leaders. Sell yourself to yourself first. Once you believe it, it’s easy to communicate how your talents fit the needs of the transition team you want to join.

This isn’t the time to be a wallflower. Turn up the volume in an appropriate way. Even if you don’t see yourself working for the post-merger company, this is a unique opportunity that you should embrace.

Final Word

Mergers and acquisitions are often dreaded and maligned as trying times that leave victims along the roadside with uncertain futures. Unfortunately, that’s certainly true. That doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of the process, no matter which side of the door you are left standing on when the dust settles.

Even if you do find yourself being let go, your strengths, opportunities, and growth will have you even more prepared and marketable for your next position. If you are curious to find out what's out there or you need to start looking for another alternative, check out our open jobs. We will provide you with a job, a career, and a chance to shine. We'll take the time to match you up with a company that is looking for a candidate just like you. Start your job search today!

Search Jobs