18 Jun The 6 business lessons we’ve learned through acquisitions
by Isaac Westwood
In just under three years, Simplus has been fortunate to complete seven acquisitions, each of which strengthened us and made us who we are today. Now, we’re going through integration and acquisition from a new perspective. Our new adventure with Infosys is unique, though, given that we will be reverse integrating their North America Salesforce team into the Simplus team.
Through all this, we’ve had growing pains, and we’ve learned. Simplus has refined the acquisition ins and outs, learning and growing a little more each time. We’ve experienced what it’s like from either side and learned some of the best practices for making every acquisition not just a business deal but a human-focused transition that strengthens both corporate entities and individual people. We wanted to share what we think are the top six takeaways for executing successful, people-focused acquisition integrations:
1. Focus on common values.
The overarching guiding principle for any acquisition has to be a focus on common ground. Identify early on—before it’s even official, if possible—the shared values between both companies. This helps both the acquiring and the acquired approach their new team members with the knowledge that they’re aligned and on the same path to success. This was especially helpful for us at Simplus with our new acquisition parent, Infosys. We identified quickly how Infosys’ values matched our own, and it has confirmed to us how perfect this match is for the success of both businesses. We are stronger and better together when our values are shared, lived, and emphasized time and time again. While there may be differences in company cultures, the underlying core values of the two businesses must be aligned for optimal success.
2. Learn from differences.
Of course, not everything will be familiar when two companies join forces. Differences in company size, methodology, culture, reporting, cadence, sales, delivery strategy… these are all inevitable and natural. But we’ve found that the best way to handle any differences is to learn from them rather than focus on the growing pains they may present. For example, with Simplus joining Infosys, there are some differences that we’re using to make us better. For one, Simplus has been used to a remote work environment, whereas Infosys does most of its work in person. We’re taking the best practices of each of these backgrounds to become even better as a newly united company. Additionally, Infosys brings new Salesforce technology experience that Simplus hasn’t yet had, and Simplus brings keen expertise in Quote-to-Cash technologies to Infosys. These are all differences, but they work together for something even better with a little effort.
3. Remember the motivation behind the acquisition.
Throughout the acquisition process, it’s important to make sure your team remembers why you pushed for and agreed to this: what’s the motivation behind this acquisition? What are the strengths and advantages that impressed you and made you want to join forces? For Simplus, keeping what’s best from each team has been our approach to every acquisition. That’s a huge part of why we were so excited to join with Infosys this year: the reverse integration element allows us to keep what makes Simplus Simplus and make it even better with new team members coming on board from Infosys. It’s the perfect way to acknowledge and retain the strengths of everyone involved.
4. Identify a central point of contact for integration.
Throughout acquisitions, having a central point of contact overseeing the integration efforts is critical to success. Brad Warnock, from the Simplus operations team, has taken the lead on managing integration efforts through each of our own acquisitions and is currently working closely with Infosys to manage the reverse integration with them. His efforts help make sure the incoming team members are welcomed, aligned, and know where to turn during that time of transition.
“Though integration must involve a large team, it also requires a central point of contact for the project and any questions or concerns about the process,” Brad said. “We also hold regular update meetings with various portions of the team—some monthly, some weekly, some daily. We create a lengthy and evolving FAQ document to help people get answers they need in a single place. Detailed communication is the key to a warm welcome. This helps us bring teams online with as little confusion as possible.”
5. Honor the previous company’s legacy.
While brand integrity and business efficiency are important objectives to maintain through acquisitions, that’s no reason to pretend the previous companies you’ve brought on board never existed. It’s important to honor the acquired companies’ legacies even after team members have been completely integrated into a new company identity. At Simplus, we do this by recognizing work anniversaries that include previous time devoted to the original companies. For example, we have some team members who had dedicated nearly a decade at Sqware Peg, one of our 2019 acquisitions, before joining the ranks of Simplus. You can’t dismiss that kind of time and the expertise gained. That team experience is a huge part of the motivation behind these acquisitions, and it should be celebrated. Finding a way to honor the companies that came before shows corporate compassion and a level of interest in the individual employee’s professional journey—not just the company’s high-level M&A success.
6. When in doubt, overcommunicate.
This best practice is one of the easiest to do but also one of the most easily forgotten when going through the hustle and bustle of an acquisition: talk, and talk often. Establish lines of reliable communication with your counterparts in the new company and learn as much as you can. When questions arise, ask them. Start collecting all of the questions that come up and their answers in a living, referenceable FAQ doc that you can share out with the entire company. This is the kind of information you want to get out in front of the team as soon as possible to ease the worries of the unknown and keep the transition smooth. Another way to overcommunicate is to simply share ideas, check in for a casual chat, and send personal notes to make sure your new team members know you’re thinking of them. During this COVID-19 pandemic, especially, I have received personal notes from senior leadership at Infosys just to check in and chat. Little gestures like this can go a long way to keeping new talent and making sure your newly acquired company feels like family.
Acquisitions can be scary for every level of experience on your team, from senior leaders and execs to your fresh graduates just starting their careers. But with the right integration approach and proven strategies, you can turn these corporate transactions into genuine celebrations, focused on people and the bright futures ahead for all.
Isaac Westwood is Chief Operating Officer of Simplus and he has been leading our global, remote team for over six years. He loves tough challenges and thrives on solving problems. Isaac is passionate about technology and understanding how it can be leveraged to improve a person’s overall quality of life.