The integration of a small, well-run company often requires a light touch strategy. In those situations, follow these 10 rules to achieve the best results:
1. Turn off "integration autopilot"
Over time, serial acquirers develop detailed procedures and checklists for running efficient integrations. That can work very nicely, just as long as the same tactics are not blindly applied to all deals, no matter their size.
2. Don't "wing it"
A light touch integration strategy does not mean no touch. Processes always should be implemented even on little deals, to define goals and time frames, track progress, and hold people accountable. Otherwise, teams veer off on tangents, and important things get done slowly or not at all.
3. Watch the us-to-them ratio
In initial integration meetings, acquirers often send an army of their specialists to meet with just a handful of managers from the other side of the deal. The team from the acquired company has to determine who all these people are, what they do, and why they are all there. It can be overwhelming, even intimidating. Keep that in mind when sending out invites.
4. Concentrate on the most pivotal goals
Workloads can become oppressive as integration-related tasks are piled on top of the normal responsibilities of an acquired company's small workforce. Therefore, ruthlessly prioritize objectives. A sustained focus on top priorities provides the best chance to achieve major targets on time, on budget, without burning people out.
5. Eliminate demands for "didley" data
Don't ask an acquired business, especially one with very limited resources, to collect trivial facts and figures. Use an acquisition as an excuse to discontinue the creation of reports that receive little attention.
6. Cut people some slack
Mature, large companies tend to have written policies for everything from approving capital requests to ordering office supplies. Young organizations operate with far, fewer defined procedures. Reduce the bureaucracy shock in the acquired company by giving new employees the latitude to bend a few rules that are unimportant.
7. Don’t stick founders in ceremonial roles
Allowing any employee, including former business owners, to collect a paycheck and contribute nothing sets a bad precedent. When founders stay, they should be given clear responsibilities and held accountable for their work, just like everyone else.
8. Reduce the number of marathon meetings
Generally, people in small organizations are less accustomed to meetings that seem to drag on for countless hours. Hold fewer of these sessions so the acquired company's employees can focus on higher payback tasks.
9. Don't jump to conclusions based on job titles
The titles may be the same but VP of Sales in a little company may be nothing like VP of Sales in a big one. Executives in small organizations often perform a wider, more diverse range of duties. Learn who actually does what before considering any staffing changes.
10. Be realistic about converting mavericks into company men
Entrepreneurs tend to rely on their intuition, improvise, and take major risks. Sometimes, trying to make them work in a highly structured, disciplined way, is like trying to change their DNA. Good luck with that!