Sunday, March 4, 2012

Working Through An Acquisition

One day you leave work and everything is normal. The next you arrive back at the office to hear from your senior managerial staff that your firm has been acquired. The usual message goes something like; business will continue as normal. Continue to focus on the task at hand. Now is not the time to take your eye of the ball.

Who is kidding who?

Naturally the acquiring company wants things to continue on as normal. They do not want the revenues of the company they have just paid a premium for, to drop. Depending on the size of the operation, it can take over a year for complete consolidation to take place. And during that time, you will begin to detest the color grey. When it comes to acquisitions, nothing is ever black or white. Unless you're on top of the food chain, it's all a foggy grey.

For a sales rep in this situation there are three major courses of action to consider.

The first is to take the bull by the horns, consider yourself a free agent, and start looking for your next position as soon as possible. Political opportunists usually pursue this course of action. Generally speaking these are the reps that get in tight with those in power and in return for this blind loyalty over the years they have received several hand out or bluebird accounts. Often these individuals will be the first to find out from their internal mentors that times are changing and that the feeding trough has run dry. Once their expense checks have been cashed and they have oversold all their regular accounts with a "scorched earth" mentality, they'll jump ship as quick as they can.

The second option is to stick it out until the bitter end. Yes the new parent company is most likely to change things. Yes, you will lose accounts, and some of your funnel from often your biggest accounts. Depending on what you were working on the previous year, you may even be decimated. After all, the largest most profitable accounts are the same accounts coveted by the incumbent sales reps of your new parent firm. Yes, your product portfolio will probably see a significant shift. Yes, you will have little chance of hitting your quota in the first year, or the second before things get realigned properly. And yes there is a good chance you will not last that long if the retention policy in the sales department provides sanctuary to only those making some arbitrary quota number. If you are one of those who decide to blindly stick it out, despite all the pain along the way, then you are indeed loyal. Loyal to a fault. Make no mistake. The decision to stay will be a costly one. But if you are one of the few survivors after the chaos has settled, it could mean a huge pay raise in the end, for the last person standing.

The third course of action is a blend of both. You are optimistic that the takeover will be positive for you, but you are also realistic about the risk involved. You will strive to your best under trying circumstances. But at the same time, you have brushed up your LinkedIn profile, you have started to contact recruiters to see if there is another position similar to yours in the area, with another more stable company. But let's face it, once you start looking, and if there is interest, you can't turn down everyone. Eventually you will be made an offer you can't refuse and you will end up leaving.

Each situation is different. But bottom line, follow your gut. If you are going to try to stay on and make it with the new parent company, then go all out! Network with managers, execs and colleagues within the new parent company. Try to gain a sense of what's really happening before it is officially announced. Most of all, don't fight any of the account or funnel losses. That's business. Get over it. The sooner you can accept your current situation, the sooner you'll be able to focus on becoming successful once again in your new role.

If you decide to make a go of it.... you'll probably want to avoid the office chatter about the situation. Ninety per cent of the time this talk will be all negative. Don't waste your energy here. The constant whining and moaning will drain you of the very energy you will need to refocus and recommit to the job at hand if you are going to be successful.

One last item to consider is the relationship you have with your immediate manager. If it is a good one and you trust him or her, you will more than likely stick it out with that person. If trust has always been at issue between you and your manager, it's probably best if you start making plans to move on. Rarely does a rep who does not have the support of his or her immediate manager make it through such turbulent times.

In either case... good luck. A little luck at times like these, can't hurt either.

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