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Mergers & Acquisitions: Your survival kit
The story of big fish (large corporations) eating small ones (smaller companies) is common in India today. It's the story of mergers and acquisitions.
When two firms, mostly of the same size, agree to go forward as a single new company rather than remain separately owned and operated, the process is known as a merger. Both companies are stakeholders or own part of the company (50:50, 60:40 or any other permutation). The recent merger between steel giants Mittal Steel (owned by L N Mittal) and Arcelor (a French corporation) is a good example.
Now, when one company takes over another and clearly establishes itself as the new owner, the purchase is called an acquisition. For instance, IBM bought out Indian BPO company Daksh E-services to form IBM Daksh.
If the company you work for will soon be party to a merger or acquisition, what does that signify for you, the employee? Here are some strategies to help you keep your job, your status and sanity and, perhaps, even take you to a higher position in the new company.
First understand that the key principle behind a merger or acquisition is to create value over and above that of the sum of the two companies. Two companies together are more valuable than two separate companies.
1+1 = 3 can be a great idea for your company but, at the personal level, things can go awry. The merger or acquisition could mean the loss of your job, or relocation to another city to keep your job. The job profile may change and your current skills may become redundant in the new company. Reporting to a new boss and dealing with a different work culture is also part of the package.
. Communicate regularly with the management: Early communication is critical in any merger or acquisition. If you receive initial word of the change without immediate follow-up information, make sure you ask your boss for updates. Do not believe or indulge in spreading rumours. People may suspect you know more than others but are not revealing information. This can damage morale and you will lose trust.
. Speak to your boss: Take the initiative. Ask your boss what is most important now. An acquisition can quickly shift priorities, so don't wait for direction. Show that you are capable of shifting gears and moving forward. Have a clear idea of what kind of work you want to do. There are many factors to consider, including your knowledge, skills, personality, values, work style and preferred environment. Discuss these openly with your boss.
. Speaking to Human Resources: The degree of HR participation is directly linked to the success of mergers and acquisitions, therefore your HR team may have a lot to offer. Ask your HR manager about the organisations' plan to merge people assets. You could even ask them about the functions or job profiles that are likely to go in the new structure.
. Relocation or transfer: There may be a need for employees to relocate to the new company's location. Informing your boss about your location preferences in advance will minimize the potential for gossip and spread of misinformation.
. Get more information: You should also discuss private issues such as individual layoffs or shifts in job responsibilities before the formal change is announced. Don't just look at career objectives; also consider personal factors. A working spouse, schoolchildren or elderly parents may stop you from relocating.
Get the big picture
Gather information about the buying company. Does it have a history of mergers? How has it handled staff in the past? You can, in all probability, find this information online.
Volunteer to lead a new project: Use your time and energy wisely. If you are part of a project that may soon dissolve as a result of the merger, volunteer for a transition team and be willing to assume new responsibilities. This shows initiative, puts you in a visible position and builds new skills. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase your leadership skills.
You can't assume your new superior will go through your personnel file to discover what great work you've done. You have to step forward and bring your talents to his or her attention. Don't try to talk about the 20 projects you've been working on for the past year. Instead, approach your superior by asking, 'Would it be useful to talk about projects I've worked on that were important to the previous management?'
Read industry publications and reports. Be aware of changing trends and position yourself accordingly. Use this knowledge to your advantage by taking a course in an up and coming area or specialty that will benefit your organization and give you an edge over competition.
Are you frustrated about not being in the loop? Guard against outward expressions of frustration and malicious gossip. You want to be known as someone who can ride the waves. Be proactive and prepare for the worst. Polish up your resume, use the Internet, contact recruiters and network. Take a proactive stand and gear up for the times ahead.
People who are not liked much are the first to be laid off. Invest in relationships and make sure you don't pick fights with your boss or colleagues during this phase. Mergers test work relationships, especially those with colleagues whose jobs may be phased out. Your dealings with others will take on a new dimension as job descriptions change and layoffs are announced. Your position may survive, but a colleague's might not. Listen and be empathetic to his or her plight. Offer encouragement and suggestions.
Exceptional performance speaks for itself. You won't get ahead with mediocre performance, regardless of how many other steps you implement. With corporations keen on expanding, the chances are good that the number of mergers and acquisitions will only increase. That makes preparing yourself imperative. Be ready.
-- The writer is a consultant corporate trainer.
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