How to Survive a Merger or Acquisition

It’s Monday morning.  With your Starbucks coffee in hand, you arrive to work ready to start the week off right.

But before you settle down at your desk or cubicle, you notice the worried faces of your co-workers. As you read your email, you find out why – there is a mandatory meeting in the conference room at 9:30 a.m. sharp. Everyone must attend.

Now you’re anxious too.

As you and your colleagues begin entering the conference room, you notice your owner standing next to two men in suits. You never saw them before.

The owner is smiling. The men in suits are smiling. But as they begin to speak, you’re not smiling.

Why?

sold down the riverBecause you just found out that you have been sold down the river!

That’s right – your company has been acquired. Or maybe you’re merging with another company.

Acquired or Merged, it makes no difference. Your life is now going to turn upside down.

Up until now, you had the prefect life. You have the prefect spouse, the prefect kids, the prefect neighborhood and the prefect car.

But things are not going to be prefect anymore.

While the owner is smiling because now he can afford to take that vacation to Hawaii he always wanted, you’re not smiling because you’re worried if you can afford to pay your rent or mortgage next month.

How do you survive an Acquisition or Merger?

1). Don’t panic – Listen carefully to want the new owners are telling you. Maybe it’s not going to be all bad as you think. I’ve gone through acquisitions and mergers where my compensation plan and benefits actually improved. Sure, there were some layoffs, but most people kept their jobs.

2). Don’t be a jerk – Don’t spread rumors, but listen to rumors. There’s a difference. You don’t want to be the jerk causing panic, but on the other hand you need to keep your ear to the ground to find out if you’re going to lose your job or not. Like it or not, trust is the first victim of an acquisition or merger. The new owners will have to earn your trust, not the other way around.

3). Ask intelligent questions – Don’t ask if you’re going to be laid off. That’s rude. But do ask “What are your short-term and long-term plans of the sales department or the company?”

Other questions may be –

“Are you planning to make any changes to our products or services?”

“Are you planning to keep our location open or close it in the near future?”

“Are you planning to come up with new quotas in the near future?”

Read between the lines. Watch the body language. Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they giving you conflicting answers?

Check out “8 Great Tricks for Reading People’s Body Language,” by Travis Bradberry

4). Update your resume – and make sure your LinkedIn profile page is also updated. For example, now would be a good time to add that photo that you keep forgetting to post on your profile.

Good advice from  “8 Steps to Improve your LinkedIn Profile in 2016,” by Lauren Batcheck

Also, check out Knock ’em Dead Resumes: How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Job Interviews by Martin Yate.

5). Check your Interview clothes – it doesn’t hurt to make sure your interview suits or dresses still fit. Maybe it’s time to buy some new ties, polish your dress shoes, and get some second opinions on what to wear on interviews.

6). Research the Company – does the new owner have a history of “grabbing and trashing” companies? That is, is your new employer acquiring a lot of companies and then laying off or closing those entities down? You can Google to find out. You can also check Glassdoor. You can also go on LinkedIn and see if a lot of employees “left” for new jobs. If the companies acquired by your new employer are located in small towns or cities, check the business section of the local newspapers and see if they reported on major layoffs or shutdowns.

Also check out this site from “The Magnet” on “The Top 5 Sites for Employer Reviews & Ratings.”

7). Take Home your Performance Reviews – Make sure you print out and take home all of your previous reviews and other documentation that shows you did well in your current job. (Or you could also email them to your personal email address). If layoffs come suddenly, you may not have time to access your performance records before you are denied access to your work computer.

8). Ask for a Letter of Recommendation – Now would be a good time to ask your manager for a letter of recommendation, or better yet, have him write a positive recommendation on your LinkedIn profile page. Make sure you have your manager’s personal email and phone number in case he gets laid off before you do. Sure, you might find him on LinkedIn or Facebook, but he probably wouldn’t be in a good mood to respond to you.

9). Keep your enemies close and your friends closer – that old saying will mean a lot once the announcement is made about the acquisition or merger. You will see a sudden swift in everyone’s mood.  Anxiety, fear and mistrust will begin to take over. You will see a major upswing of brown-nosing, especially with the new bosses. Old feuds that have been simmering for a while will erupt without warning. You’ll hear nervous laughter in the lunch room as someone shares another juicy piece of gossip. As you walk down the hallway, conversations will suddenly stop until you walk on by. Old alliances will fall apart and new ones will be created.

Bottom line – Watch your back!

10). Keep an Open Mind – as I mentioned above, not all acquisitions or mergers are bad. I’ve gone through several in my career, and I ended up with a better comp plan and benefits package. Sometimes, I would find myself with a better manager and an upgraded sales pipeline or territory.

Acquisitions and Mergers are a fact of life these days.  In the long run, the best way to survive one is to always be learning, always be networking and always be looking.  If you continue to learn, maintain your network of contacts, and keep your eyes open for new opportunities, you should be safe.

Here are some links to help you –

“Acquisition and Merger Process Through the Eyes of Employees,” by Terhi Maidell

“How to Merge Corporate Cultures,” by Tim Donnelly

Note: If you like my post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

The Choice, or How a Millennial got Screwed

(Note: The following story is true. Real names are not used for obvious reasons.)

You are a sales manager of a 5 person sales team at a small conservative parochial company. It’s a slow growth business using limited marketing and social media programs to help generate qualified leads and prospects.

The office is crappy.

The plumbing is crappy.

The computer system is crappy.

The CRM is crappy.

The morale is….well, you get the drift.

What keeps most sales people working year after year is the compensation package, decent benefits and a no enforced sales quota policy.

After 4 months of interviews, you finally hire a new salesperson. She’s a recent graduate. This is her first real full-time job. She’s a millennial living at home with her parents.

good and bad choicesSix months into the job, you find that the millennial is doing a fair job. But you begin to detect that her head isn’t completely in the sales game. Sure, she goes through the motions of making sales calls, getting orders, entering sales notes, etc., but she’s not lighting any fires.

While you figure she should be grateful that she has a job, you feel she’s not very enthusiastic. But to be fair, no one on your sales team is very enthusiastic either. But at least you know they’re older, have major financial obligations, and can’t afford to move to another city anytime soon. Furthermore, because the other salespeople have been with the company for a long time, they are locked in, e.g., they have a high base salary, a large pipeline, and lots of vacation time. Unless someone comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse, you’re confident your sales team will stay put.

But you are not so sure about the millennial you hired. Since she’s living at home with her parents and has smaller financial obligations (except maybe student loans), she could turn on you like a dime and jump at another job offer – maybe even another city.

Along comes a former employee who used to work for you. He left the company a few years ago to do consulting work. But lately, times are hard he wants to return to his old stomping grounds for regular paychecks and benefits.

You know him. He has plenty of sales and marketing experience. He’s mature. He’s hard-working. And unlike the millennial, he has a mortgage and major financial responsbilities to deal with. You also know he’s not going to be a flight risk.

But you have a dilemma. You don’t have any openings in your sales department.

So what do you do?

Do you keep the millennial and hope that she grows with the job? Or, do you get rid of millennial and replace her with the more experienced sales person?

Before you answer, consider the following –

Further complicating your situation, you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. You’re commute is long and terrible. And to top it off, you and your wife are raising two kids. And to make matters even worse, your wife is working a part-time job she hates. But because the bills are piling up, she has no choice but to work. At least once a week, your wife reminds you of this fact.  Your wife wants to know when your big commission checks will be rolling back in again so she can stop working.

Long commute, children, mortgage, bills, wife complaining. The financial pressures are accelerating.

Now, how would you answer the above questions?

Millennial sales personThe sales manager in this situation forced the millennial out of her job. He did so by writing her up on picayune issues like coming to work a few minutes late, and making minor errors on her orders. While petty issues, the sales manager was clearly trying to bully the millennial to leave. Unfortunately, the millennial was too naïve to understand what was happening to her. A more experienced salesperson would have seen the handwriting on the wall, and either a). work harder or b). jump ship.

As for the millennial, she eventually had enough “write-ups” in her file to get fired.

Was the millennial treated unfairly? Yes.

Were the sales manager’s tactics unethical and maybe even, illegal? Yes.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, his scheme worked. He got the new experienced sales person on board. And with that new person, the chance of generating more income for himself that would eventually get his wife off his back.

As for the millennial, she eventually landed a new sales job three months later. Did she learn any important lessons? Unsure.

Lessons:

1). Don’t take your job for granted. Living at home isn’t a crime. Hell, more millennials than ever are living at home until they can generate enough income to buy their first home. In fact, a Census report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016,” states that about 34% of all young adults between ages 18 to 34 – are still living with their parents.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, living at home means you will find it easier to find a new job or relocate. Yes, you may eventually find a new job or relocate anyway. But you need to keep your head in the game and at a bare minimum, pretend that you’re taking your job seriously. You don’t want your manager to catch on that you are job hunting or bored with your job. Trust me, there will always be people waiting in the wings to take your position.

2). Sales managers are human. problems faced by sales managersWhile a good manager is always professional, personal problems or other outside pressures may force him to take unethical actions to boost his income. This is especially true when the sales manager is not only earning commission on your sales, but his sales as well. While you don’t want to pry and participate in office gossip, keep your eyes and ears open to any issues your manager is facing that could jeopardize your job. Is he going through a divorce? Is his wife or one of his children requiring expensive medical attention? Is he more stressed than normal?

3). Look at the signs. If your sales manager’s attitude towards you suddenly changes for the worst, fairly or unfairly, he may view you as the weakness link on the sales team. Even if you are meeting or exceeding your quota, the sales manager may feel you can do better. It’s not unusually for sales managers to hire their friends or previous employees they know well. It’s not just a matter of earning more money, but it’s about having a comfort zone. Sales managers want to be surrounded by people they know and can trust.

To learn more if your boss hates you, please read the articles below –

“7 Signs Your Boss Hates you (And How to Handle it),” by Alison Green of Dailyworth

“Ten Signs Your Boss Hates You,” by Liz Ryan

Selling is an honorable profession. But like any profession, we all have to make choices. Make sure you don’t end on the wrong side of a bad choice.

If you were the sales manager discussed in this post, what would you have done?

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

The third photo is from photo credit: Rusty Russ Sea of Tears via photopin (license)