As many of us heard before, over 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver value committed during the public announcement. More concerning is that many deliver value erosion with very negative consequences ranging from complete disappearance of the acquired company to millions of dollars in write-off in later divestiture.
As we discussed examples it has become apparent that the most critical issues are (1) lack of clear definition/alignment of the business objective for the acquisition and (2) lack of professional M&A leadership in the business, or both.
So, if you don’t read any further keep in mind if your company is acquiring and planning to integrate another business make sure you address upfront both of these issues:
- What/why are we acquiring this for? IP, geographic expansion, supply chain execution, etc. “The answer must be crystal clear, documented and agreed at leadership level because it will serve as the guiding principle for all other decisions coming up” Jack Prouty – President, M&A Leadership Council
- Assign a professional M&A team to deliver according to the objective. No cutting corners are allowed here. You must have people who understand the business and possess superior leadership skills. “This is not for the faint of heart, unprepared or for the people available at the time” Mark Herndon – President, M&A Partners
There are other critical steps after that but to address all of them I recommend attending the 3-day executive workshop, especially if you’re in any leadership position of M&A. I’ll concentrate on the dilemma of what to integrate.
Getting to the answer is not easy but the principle is simple: integration objectives must be fully aligned and supportive of delivering the acquisition objectives, the ones I mentioned above, which in turn must be clear and aligned across M&A leadership team.
Example: a large company which product has slowly become a commodity and revenue is lagging year over year has decided to acquire a small innovative company with the objective of transforming its business and return to innovation, product differentiation and scale up sales for the target company.
Integration objectives: retain target Co. talent at all cost (it may very well be a condition for closing), incubate and protect their innovative spirit as opposed to integrate or consolidate, integrate back office in the short term, cautiously integrate sales in the medium to long-term.
Not to do: absorb organization. It’s common companies will lose sight of their acquisition objective and will make decisions that will destroy or erode value of the acquired company. Great ideas when looked at the micro level of integration, such as “why don’t we integrate our R&D teams and we will save $1M in lab and organization costs”, have proven to be value eroding or killers of great acquisitions. In this case the company would lose all the talent and end up with a product which it can’t sell or develop. That means a major loss of the acquisition investment and high probability of not being able to turn the situation around. Company would have to eventually ingest the loss.
In conclusion, to answer the question about the right approach for integration you must first align on the objective of the acquisition and then assign a strong leader who will be capable of delivering accordingly. Fail to do either and you’ll have to prepare for disaster recovery.
Please share your thoughts, comments and experiences with our community.
Jack Prouty, Mark Herndon, Jim Jeffries, Melanie Endert, the entire M&A Leadership Council, and fellow Coaches and Alumni of The Art of M&A Executive Workshop from whom I learned so much this week. Thank you.