By formalizing a few key integration strategies, you could effectively leverage the synergy of each new acquisition leading to sales, operations, and delivery benefits.
Even during these unprecedented times, Ardurra has been fortunate to grow from a staff of about 100 to more than 900 employees in less than five years. While this staggering growth is exciting, it also brings a host of challenges that our leadership both anticipated and developed strategies and business processes to address. These processes have allowed Ardurra to leverage the benefits of this rapid service growth and geographic expansion by proactively integrating each acquisition, while encouraging and rewarding collaboration.
Our growth has included both organic and acquisitive growth. Organic growth, while providing value to Ardurra’s clients, also provides ongoing opportunities to staff and maximizes shareholders’ value. Growth has also occurred geographically through the acquisition and assimilation of carefully selected partners. Acquisitive growth without organic growth often results in poor investments; organic growth without mergers may be too slow in the current consulting environment. This strategy of bringing together organic and acquisitive growth requires synergy. Synergy is defined as interaction or cooperation that gives rise to a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Synergy does not happen by itself and has been a carefully managed process within Ardurra and includes the following:
- Structured integration process for acquisitive growth. Ardurra has established an integration “team” that aligns each of our existing service areas with their counterparts in the new firm. Known as “initiatives” these specific focus areas include: human capital, accounting, information technology, marketing, sales, production, operations, and technical services. Each initiative has a champion from each firm who work together in a zippered approach to fully integrate within a three- to eight-month period. Together, they develop milestones and deadlines to fully integrate their particular area within the rest of the organization. Our synergy director, Rick Cloutier, guides us through the process and holds the group accountable for achieving the established milestones.
- Integrated selling program. As part of the integration process, our chief strategy officer, Kart Vaith, has initiated an integrated selling program that includes an education process for our existing staff on the full suite of our services that may be of interest to our clients. We also provide tools and information to the new additions that help our staff better understand Ardurra’s history, resources, and services that they can now offer to our clients. The cornerstone to this approach is to put the client first and allow every employee in the firm to prioritize superior client service and exceptional project delivery above all else.
- Cross-selling incentives. To further encourage our existing and new acquisition sales teams to offer the full suite of services to our clients, Ardurra has instituted a training program with incentives to allow staff to learn and grow in areas outside of their core skill set. Not only does this program provide us with the means to track tangible results of the synergies realized from each new acquisition, it has successfully spurred outreach, communication, and collaboration across geographic regions and service disciplines.
- Market leader initiative. Ardurra has identified key individuals to serve as national market leaders, regional technical leads, and subject matter experts within each of our practices. Each is responsible for identifying and connecting new employees and acquisition staff within their service area to the team, available tools, and available resources. The goal is to help every staff member achieve their professional goals while helping Ardurra continue to innovate and provide exceptional services to our clients. Additionally, this group is fostering collaboration and communication, sharing lessons learned on current projects and pursuits, such as experience with various technologies, manufacturers, operational strategies, etc. Finally, they help garner national recognition for Ardurra and our clients by presenting technical papers and preparing award submissions on innovative solutions and feature projects for industry conferences and agencies.
- Rapid integration and coordination between sales staff. Firms that are most aligned with Ardurra have strong leadership and have built a sound technical and project delivery practice with a foundation of exceptional client services. However, a key to continued high organic growth has been the rapid assimilation of the acquired firm’s leaders into the Ardurra system. This allows the acquired staff to follow some simple but required procedures, while integrating and becoming a part of a group with world-class competence.
While each of these may seem like intuitive strategies, you would be surprised how many acquisitive firms are not applying them. This is why so many continue to operate as “franchises,” rather than one, cohesive company. Inherently, Ardurra’s culture facilitates a family structure, encouraging collaboration and teamwork. By formalizing these key integration strategies, we have effectively leveraged the synergy of each new acquisition leading to sales, operations and delivery benefits.