My experience as a Corporate Development Director was with a product company, which was the foundation for my hands on integration experience. The complexity of the integration always revolved around such things as product registrations, sales and manufacturing continuity, and transition of management.
At Third Coast Capital Advisors, I’ve encountered various client business models, which has exposed me to different integration priorities. In recent months, I’ve been engaged with Haskell, a design-build firm based in Jacksonville, Florida that has acquired several services businesses. For specific insights on integrating a services business I turned to Brad Slappey, CFO of Haskell.
Since our firm typically works with corporate clients in making strategic acquisitions, we have a unique perspective on the entire process, from initial contact through execution and integration. The following are some best practices that we have seen used effectively by our clients to garner employee support as they integrate an acquisition.
A couple of years ago, before joining Third Coast Capital, I was in the thick of due diligence as Corporate Development Director on a major international acquisition project. At the same time, I was traveling globally to facilitate strategic planning and trying to juggle other acquisition opportunities. I had a bandwidth problem, so I hired Larry Radowski from Integrated Project Management Company (IPM) to augment my team. IPM got up speed quickly and delivered on their expertise.
Naturally, when approaching this topic I thought of IPM. I asked Larry what three things he thought were the most critical in any integration project. His answer: alignment of the acquisition objectives, tradeoffs between operational efficiency and long-term growth, and application of a consistent, proven management process. I’d like to explore each of these in more detail below.
If you’re relatively new to acquisitions, you either have yet to discover the challenges you will face while managing your integration, or you’ve already discovered that integration can be downright difficult.
When preparing for an integration, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is, “who”?
- Who inside your company has plenty of downtime in their current role, or can take a hiatus from their job for 2 to 4 months or perhaps even longer to manage your integration project?
- Who do you trust to integrate the current acquisition, and to establish your integration playbook for the future, assuming you don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you acquire and integrate a company?
- Who has managed complex projects, and is familiar with project management best practices?
- Who is senior enough to require performance of the integration team, while maintaining frequent and fluid communication with upper management?
- Who can manage the project objectively, without focusing too much on their own functional background?