Surviving Mergers & Acquisitions

Sitting at home this week and working on a blog post, I had an email from Scott Dorsey – Chairman, CEO & Co-Founder of ExactTarget hit my inbox at 11:45pm Sydney time. It was a done deal, salesforce.com were acquiring ExactTarget for US$2.5 billion. It was reminiscent for me of the Oracle announcement when they acquired Siebel Systems for US$5.8 billion in September 2005. I was working for Siebel at the time.

Let the games begin

There’s always mixed feelings for staff when these things happen. For those with loads of shares, they may start planning that little get away in the South Pacific they’d always wanted. For most of us though the questions is “Will I have a job in six months?“.

It’s a good question to ask. What follows is the inevitable “streamlining” of staff, the back office staff are probably the most nervous. The finance team are easy fodder, you don’t need two of everything and the acquiring company is the one really making the decisions.

There are exceptions. When Hewlett-Packard announced the acquisition of Compaq in 2001 for US$25 billion, many of the Compaq staff in Australian were kept and HP used it as an excuse to “move on” a good number of dead wood.

What’s a good plan?

When I was at Siebel, luck would have it that I was headhunted and was able to move on before the official acquisition date took place. My business unit had been a previous acquisition by Siebel for US$259 million and in the Oracle world, our sales processes and methodologies didn’t make a lot of sense. Oracle sold the OnTarget business unit to an Ireland based firm and they became known as The TAS Group.

“The OnTarget operation is not core to Oracle’s future business strategy, the vendor said in a release. However, Oracle claims “numerous” third parties have already expressed interest in acquiring the operation and it hopes to complete a deal this spring. Oracle referred further inquiries about the OnTarget sell-off to investment banking services provider McNamee Lawrence & Co. LLC.”*

What can you do to survive?

You really need to ask yourself do you want to survive in this new world? Is there an opportunity for you to jump ship and land a dream role somewhere else in the industry that  you enjoy? For Australian employees the question may be do I wait around for a redundancy payout – that could be attractive. At the start of the 2001 tech crash I know of Cisco Systems employees who were made redundant with payouts around AU$40k and more.

Once you decide you want to stay or go, you need to work your network to determine if you have a chance of surviving. Today LinkedIn is a good way to do this, however I’d suggest that building your LinkedIn network is something you need to do long before a M&A takes place.

It comes back to building your own brand. How valuable are you to the business? You also need to ask questions, be open and honest with the decision makers and ask them to be honest and open with you.

While at Ernst & Young around 2009 I asked my Managing Partner to be honest with me about the future. The Global Financial Crisis had hit and the writing was on the wall, we knew our days were numbered. I asked him to let me know as soon as he knew we were being shut down. He was true to his word, I got a call from him one Friday night letting me know it was all over.

At the end of the day…

…you really just need to look out for number one, that’s yourself. Keep your eyes and ears open, ensure you have a back up plan. You should also look for opportunities that may enable you to have a career change within the organisation. Don’t stick your heard in the sand and ignore what’s going on around you.

One more thing…

Click Here to read an article from The Corporate Executive Board, “M&A: A Look Inside An Employee’s Head”.

*SOURCE: InfoWorld.com