What to do if your firm is acquired

Jul 13, 2009

Economic crisis or not, there’s a lot of it going on these days— firms in our “industry” buying other companies— for a variety of reasons. And while there is lots of information out there on how to do the deal and how to integrate the acquired organization into the buying organization, I have never seen anything written on what to do if your firm is acquired from an employee’s perspective. While there is no question that a lot of good can come from being bought by a more successful enterprise, employees typically find the prospect of new ownership very stressful. Here are some of my thoughts on what you should be doing if your firm has just been acquired: Don’t freak out. Many people automatically assume the worst, i.e., that the new ownership is evil, that they want to fire everyone, that they personally will get fired, etc. This is not the way to let yourself go! Many times good things come from new ownership. They may pay their bills more promptly and you’ll get fewer collection calls from suppliers and subcontractors. They may have better benefits. They may have other companies and offices that you could work in some day. Don’t allow yourself to freak out! Show the new owners that you have their best interests at heart. The new owners are going to be interested in ideas that help them get their investment paid back as quickly as possible. If you have some, share them! They also want to be sure client relationships are protected and they aren’t forming any new unexpected liabilities. Point out these issues— early. Show the new ownership that you can empathize with them and that you want to help. Make yourself more useful than ever to the enterprise. Volunteer for new responsibilities. Be sure you are doing your primary job well. Go sell some work. Go collect some money. These are the things that buyers need doing, so help them! The extent to which you make yourself indispensable will determine whether or not you remain employed as well as where else you can go in the company. Use data to support your contribution claims. It’s not good enough to state “my group makes money.” Show the new owners how much your group makes and how long it has been doing it. Ditto for cost savings. Detail it all and maybe there won’t be any doubt about your contributions to the company. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in negativity related to the change. If your “group” gets real negative, they’ll probably be heading out the door— either on their own, or with some help from management. Yes— things will be different. Hours may change, benefits may change, reports may look different, clients may be different, co-workers may be different— all these things can change. But are any of these changes really that big of a deal? You better assess what is in the best interests of your clients. If their interests are being served by your enterprise, and served well, lighten up! Establish a personal connection with the new owners. Make friends. Go to lunch. Establish an e-dialogue. Do whatever it takes to form new personal relationships with the new owners. It’s just smart— and will help both of you. New owners are going to be looking to make some changes to improve the performance of the company— financial performance. Usually that involves some— if not a lot— of cost-cutting. Don’t be a victim. Seize the opportunity— and come out ahead! Originally published 7/13/2009

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.