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M&A: Don’t Let a Good Deal Go Bad

Posted on: January 14th, 2015 by: trefoil

Communications Must Plant a Stake in the Ground for the Future

“This really is a big deal,” thought the manufacturing executive, who had just signed the papers of an M&A transaction. “It will give us the critical mass we need to accomplish our financial goals, delight our customers, and provide new opportunities for employees in both organizations.”

Too bad more people don’t hear about these big plans and smart strategies. Instead, all too often, acquisition communications focus on the details of the transaction—the square footage of the acquired facility, the number of combined employees, expected operational cost savings, or the financial details that are not disclosed. Even inside the organizations, most people are left to question what the future holds.

This lack of clarity, I believe, is one of the key reasons why some 70 to 90 percent of M&A deals fall short of expectations. People can doom a deal when their uncertainty in the face of change leads to negative attitudes that disable any synergies that the deal could have produced.

Ensuring success through a stronger communications strategy

Today, M&A deals are on the rise, with the first quarter of 2014 being the second biggest in both volume and deal value since the 2007 financial collapse (according to a new FactSet Research report). So it’s a crucial time to be doing a better job of deal-related communications.

How can you do that? By making communications an integral part of your merger or acquisition strategy and execution, starting early and continuing through the deal and beyond. You must address the challenges of the change up front while creating enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead.

While this effort requires forethought and planning, it shouldn’t be that hard. First, put aside the complexity of the transaction. Your audiences care about only one thing: “Me!” What does the deal mean for the future of your employees and your customers? That’s the real story.

In the previous article in this series, we looked at storytelling more broadly as a way to build a competitive edge. Here, I’d like to focus more specifically on developing the story you need to succeed in an M&A deal. Ask yourself these key questions:

  • How will this acquisition help us take better care of our customers than anyone else? How can we assure them that they are our primary focus and the acquisition won’t distract us?
  • What role will employees play? How will it make their futures even brighter? How will they know that they are our most trusted and valuable asset?
  • How will this help attract the new customers and new employees we need to grow more aggressively? When the deal is done and the investment bankers and attorneys all go away, who else will want to hitch their wagon to my star?

Sharing your story to produce the biggest impact

The answers to these questions will help you bring the same passion you have for the deal to your communications. To help you tell your story effectively, here are a few more things to keep in mind.

One is that you can’t over communicate, but you can over inform. Communicate more often, but be more concise, to make your messages memorable. Another is to be sure to equip employees as ambassadors, helping them share the story with your customers, your suppliers, and even in your community.

Your mission is to share a story that your audiences can relate to, fostering alignment instead of confusion, optimism instead of uncertainty.

After all, a merger or acquisition is a big deal. To do it justice and maximize the impact, you’ve got to go beyond the numbers. Because if you don’t tell a great story, I’m sure your competitors will be happy to shape one for you.

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