Leadership Skills for Surviving a Buyout
You've been bought out.
You had been leader of the organization from startup to buyout. The buyout proposition seemed to be a major opportunity because it would cover your debt, secure packages for key personnel, enhance the return to your investors, and give you a chance to sustain your legacy. You went along with the buyout. Then, reality sets in. Your company is one of many acquisitions. It isn't clear what the intent of the buyer is. You're not sure what they want to keep and what they want to throw away.
There are things you can do to make sure that the organization you created not only survives, but is valued and maintains its identity in a new corporate environment.
1. Beware of burnout. Often, after a corporate merger, burnout sets in. This happens simply because no one has a clear picture of what is expected or what has to be done. Initiative is stifled, creativity is hampered, and the energy that drove the organization to be a buyout target dissipates. You need to be aware of this, and work to keep your team focused and energized.
2. Make your company's value-proposition clear. When a major corporation buys out a smaller company, even after due diligence, sooner rather than later, the executives forget some of the core reasons and products that propelled them to acquire it. It is up to you to remind them why they bought your company, and why you're important.
3. Create partnerships. Whether at the corporate level, or across businesses, it is critical that you forge partnerships, collaborate with others, and develop a mutual understanding of how, in unison, you can move toward a common goal.
4. Be mindful of the corporation's needs. It is essential that you understand how the corporation as a whole views your organization's role as part of the corporate business strategy. The more you understand the corporate business strategy and are mindful of the corporate need, the more likely you are to be an important player.
5. Stay clear of nostalgia. Before your company is totally integrated into the larger corporation, there is a tendency to fall back on reminiscing about the good old days, when you operated as a sole entity, and could do what you like, when you liked. More often than not, in these reveries, you will remember the positive and underplay the negative. Resist the urge to give in to nostalgia. It will only hold you back.
6. Embrace common corporate culture. Organizations that are bought out sometimes become xenophobic and often ignore (if not openly reject) the culture of the larger corporation, viewing it as stultifying and dominating. Find a way of integrating your culture with the new corporate culture that doesn't diminish either.
7. Accentuate your innovative capacity. Organizations are typically bought not just for one of two products but for their creative potential to offer integrated solutions. The more you can promote your innovative vitality, the more likely you are to grow in the new corporate setting.
SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies
Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.