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Takeover Day: How do you know if you'll stay?

by Jeff Gau on September 6, 2012

We are currently completing our 12th acquisition and although the companies have all been different, the feeling on “that day” never changes. Employees are typically called to attend an all-company meeting where it is announced that the company is being bought. Moments later, I am introduced and I walk down the aisle of chairs to the front of room. I can feel the uncertainty. I see the anxiety. I can hear them all asking the same question: “What about me?”

On occasion, someone will boldly raise his or her hand and ask, “I’ve been here for 30 years; do I get to keep my job?” Through my observations of organizations and people during acquisitions, I have recognized a series of common traits of those who make it - and even thrive through the merger. Here’s a look at seven questions that may determine whether the individual will have a successful career at Marco:

1.) Are you a good employee today?
If an employee is honest with themselves, they know where they rank on the performance scale. If you are a high performing team member today, people will know and recognize that. Good employees will make the team and should have an opportunity to advance in their career.

2.) How close are you to the customer?
The closer you are the better. Now, this does not guarantee your job and there is no fixed rule, but close customer contact and knowledge increases your job security.

3.) What would the current management team say about you?
Before every acquisition, we meet with the owner to talk about their team members. They coach us on the skills and contributions of each individual. Often times it’s during those discussions that we learn about their team of employees and get a pretty good idea of the members that will be a good fit.

4.) What is your track record of performance?
About 90 percent of the employees who worked for the former company are still with Marco three months later. Your job may change, but if you’re a good employee, the company will find a position that fits your skill sets and it likely will not require a move. Not everyone needs to work at the corporate office. Tools and technology today allow employees to perform corporate duties from hundreds of miles away at a branch office or their homes.

5.) Are you willing to explore other jobs?
It may be easy to take a “promotion,” but would you step out of a leadership role or consider a different career path? A sales manager, for example, may become a salesperson if the leadership role is already occupied in that market. Although his or her title and role may change, often times it can be beneficial for that individual from a compensation standpoint.

6.) What is your willingness and ability to adapt to change?
An acquisition can be the biggest thing ever to happen in a person’s career. The employee’s career course can be altered in a moment. Often times acquiring companies will tell the employees that everything will essentially “remain the same.” That’s just not true. During acquisitions, change is guaranteed. From day one of the integration, processes are going to be different. It’s important that you send a message of willingness to adapt to the changes and not be a detractor to progress. Team players have a much higher success rate in acquisitions.

7.) Do you make a good first impression?
After every “welcome meeting” where I am introduced as the new CEO, we break into groups to give the employees a chance to ask questions. Then, we spend another hour or more at a social gathering. It’s during that social hour that employees can connect personally with the new leadership team. As the saying goes, first impressions are lasting impressions. Need I say more?

Whether your company has plans to be acquired or not, the first question is “would you make the cut personally?” The second question is “have you prepared your team to be contributing members that can add value to a new organization?”

So if you “really are” a good employee at your existing company, odds are you’ll be an asset to the acquiring company.  Make sure you keep your saw sharp.

Topics: Leadership, Change, Acquisition

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