The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily decimated M&A. Now, as things begin to normalize, we’re already seeing an increase in business sales. But how many will actually succeed? Post-integration planning is critical to realizing the synergies you seek from a merger, and it should begin well before you sign the paperwork. Here are five strategies that can ensure successful integration for minimal costs:

Identify Clear, Specific Goals for the Deal

Why are you involved in this transaction? The answer might seem obvious, but if you can’t answer with a clear and specific goal, your plans may be too amorphous to succeed. Your post-closing plans depend heavily on the goals you have in mind, so put pen to paper to identify them. Better still, as you move through the due diligence process, consider whether anything you discover may affect your goals.

Successful businesses begin developing an integration plan from the moment they initiate deal negotiations. Get ahead of things with the right plan.

Hire the Right Team the First Time

A DIY approach is never a good idea when it comes to buying or selling a business. Yet some parties elect to do as much as they can themselves, then only hire the right team after it becomes clear that going it alone will prove disastrous. Hire the right team from the very beginning.

Know Who Need to Participate in the Deal

Who holds the power and influence in your company? Often, there are important employees who carry institutional knowledge or unofficial power. They may be every bit as important as the CEO or CFO. Think about who needs to know what when, upon whom your company depends, and how the deal you negotiate may ultimately influence the willingness of key players to stay on board.

Know the Importance of Culture

It doesn’t matter how many terms you put in your legal agreements. Ultimately, a merger is the bringing together of two distinct—and often diametrically opposed—cultures. Consider how this shift may affect your team, your operations, and your customers. Cultural integration is often a very low priority consideration during negotiations, but it can make or break the long-term success of the company. Seek small, manageable, incremental changes, and err on the side of a culture that improves lives for all stakeholders. If you’re planning to downsize, slash benefits, or abandon a key aspect of one company’s culture, you’ll need to consider how the financial and employee losses this will cause may affect your budget, as well as the long-term success of the merger. Look for these small wins which give people confidence in the integration process.

Get to Know One Another

Because culture is so important, it’s best to begin working out cultural issues early. And that means bringing people from both businesses together as early as possible to help ease fears, reduce suspicion and begin building a friendly, welcoming environment. This demands some time and money, but the improvements in the prospects of the company will be well worth it.

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