By Price Pritchett

A man walks into a bar and says, “Give me a beer before problems start!” He downs it and orders another, saying, “Give me a beer before problems start!” The bartender looks confused. This goes on for a while and after the fifth beer, the bartender—now totally perplexed—asks the man, “When are you going to pay for these beers?” The man says, “Ah, now the problems start.”

Of course, the trouble began with the first beer. It was just a lot bigger problem by beer number five.

The joke reminds me of acquirers who buy a company but persuade themselves that it’s best to hold off for a year or two before integrating it with their existing operations. The argument usually goes something like this: “We don’t want to rock the boat.” . . . ”We want things to settle down before starting any consolidation.” . . . "It’s best to wait a while and give ourselves time to do this right.”

Sounds good. But it’s probably dead wrong.

Integration almost always gets messier when it’s delayed. Furthermore, productivity and profitability typically suffer until the consolidation is over and done.

Waiting to integrate is sort of like delaying surgery—it doesn’t eliminate the dread or resolve the problem. Sure, there’s less immediate pain, but people have to deal with uncertainty for a much longer period of time. So problems fester, and the fear of change is like a low-grade fever that weakens operating effectiveness.

If you plan to integrate at some point in time, you probably shouldn’t procrastinate. As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Git’r done!” Then people can get over it and get on with business.

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