Engineer Early Success in Your Merger

Every merger, once announced, is immediately put on trial. Top management—those who crafted the deal—also stand accused. And the accusers just keep crawling out of the woodwork as several months go by.

Often word of the merger leaks out during the negotiation stage, and the criticism cranks up before the deal is done, even before, top management gets to tell its story. This is a crucial opportunity, but far too often executives blow their chances at properly setting the stage for what’s to come. They also say things that are guaranteed to come back to haunt them. Besides all that, however, talk is cheap. Top officials can carry on all day about how great the merger is going to be. They can praise its potential, and promise people the moon. But there are many disbelievers.

The press hovers close by, hoping to report something provocative and controversial. They like bad news the best. Also, the investment community may have a sour attitude. The competition is always chomping at the bit, looking for trouble they can talk about to your customers. As for the employee audience, well, they’re listening with a lot of skepticism, suspicion, hostility, and fear.

This is a hard-nosed jury here. To a large extent, top management and the merger are guilty until proven innocent. And now for the worst part of it all: the critics get their proof first.

Think about it. A merger is a very strategic move. But early on, there are many tactical problems. You don’t do a merger because it brings you an immediate high, or because you get instant payoff. For the most part, the good stuff takes quite a while to materialize. This is a prime example of “deferred gratification,” where the organization decides to go through the difficult drill of ...