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New Owners: Avoiding the #1 Pitfall

Changing Ownership is traumatic, for both owner and the workforce. It is easy to overlook how people interact with each other.

It’s not that people don't like change, they just don’t like being changed. A McKinsey study reports that successful cultural integration is one the most critical factors in a successful merger or acquisition.

Change in ownership is exhaustingly difficult work. By the time the final papers are signed and the ‘keys’ are turned over, people are mentally and physically drained. However, now is the time when the seeds of success or failure are sown. Because culture is so important, why drop the ball when it comes to planning and executing the cultural integration process?Whether directly or inadvertently, many new owners ask their newly acquired workforce to blindly jettison their old culture and adopt new practices and rituals with little or no fuss. Unfortunately that is not a realistic expectation, that’s a dream. Which often turns into a nightmare.

New owners want to put their personal stamp on the company they just bought. Established organizations want to exert their ‘stamp’ on the newly acquired company. These are natural desires. However, the transition can be heavy handed or a more collaborative approach. One successful case - a merger effort of four insurance companies put together groups to review and identify best practices. At the same time, they provided people with the skills to help cope with change, improve teamwork and develop support networks.

Many private or smaller acquisitions feel they do not have the time or resources to spend on such activities. Here are a few ideas that are easier to implement:· Extend the due diligence process to include cultural fit· Create a goal that requires employees to unify their efforts· Map/compare strategy plans of both organizations on a single wall· Get an outside specialist involved (HR professional)· Conduct culture audits before making major changes.

Dave Nave

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