I sold Plum Organics, the baby food company I co-founded--and obsessed over, bled over, and was so proud of--to Campbell Soup Co. in 2013. We were a Northern California-based, tattooed, bike-riding, organic-eating collection of people and products getting bought by one of the oldest food companies in the nation.
It could have gone like many acquisitions do.
Step 1: The team that built the company and its products get bought by a larger company.
Step 2: The same team runs for the hills (or in our case, rides for the hills) as fast as they can.
We didn't--I didn't--ride for it. For the last 2.5 years I remained CEO and only recently moved to the role of chairman at Plum. I stayed for very good reasons.
I am not going to pretend that financially Campbell didn't offer me good reason to stay. They did, and any company that wants to keep the people that are part of an acquisition has to do that at a minimum.
But a payday alone is not why people stay--at a new place, or any place--when you dig into it. There has to be more.
Think about Instagram. It was one of the fastest-growing social services at the time that Zuckerberg made his offer. The money was certainly good, but even better was joining forces with Facebook. For both sides of the deal, clearly one plus one has equaled far more than two.
Verizon has the same outcome in mind for its Yahoo acquisition, but whether it succeeds depends on keeping key Yahooligans around. If you're a Yahoo exec, you're now wondering: Why should I stay?
Good question, and here's my response: Assuming these are all on the table, here are four good reasons to stick around after your company --Yahoo or otherwise--gets acquired.
1. You aren't finished
We had become the No. 2 organic baby food brand in the country, but I wanted to be No. 1. Campbell, with its massive scale and expertise, could help us finish what we started.
But the only way I was going to tap into any of that was to stick around and get the job done.
2. You can protect the legacy of the brand
We had built a company on a very simple premise: that the most precious people, our children, deserve the very best food. It's what drove us as a company, what differentiated us as a brand, and what made our customers crazy-loyal.
You lose just a little bit of that, and first you lose the employees that got you there, and then you lose your customers.
Think of the great brands that were acquired and then started to lose that thing that set them apart because people bailed. Quiksilver in surf and outdoors, Flickr in tech, and Odwalla in food.
To protect and amplify what makes your company special - your soul - you need to be there to tend to it.
3. You can have bigger impact
If you are a software engineer, part of the reason you want to go work at Google or Facebook is because you get to work on some of the world's most interesting problems at the largest scale of any company, anywhere.
At Plum, we were having impact. But at a place like Campbell, I could scale Plum the company, my view of the food system and how to run companies.
Our approach to parental leave at Plum; my drive for Plum to become a Benefit Corporation - these are things we brought to Campbell and now they've rippled out to more people and more places than they could have at Plum alone.
4. You owe it to the people who put you on the map
Every company gets built on the loyalty and hard-earned money of its customers. It becomes a relationship.
In practically every organic food brand acquisition that we studied, if the leadership team bailed soon after the acquisition customers quickly fled like something was chasing them. The integrity of the relationship they had built with their customers vanished the moment they stepped away.
I am not suggesting there aren't good reasons to pull the ripcord after an acquisition, but most of them stem from a bad match from the beginning. The acquiring company needs to be clear on what it is buying - is it people and an approach, or just a logo to add to its roster of brands? Do they value the soul of your company?
You also need to know yourself and your own tolerance for working within a bigger organization. Those with an allergic reaction to big companies shouldn't sign up to go in the first place.
If you do go, find someone who can be your champion within the new organization.
Embrace your differences, highlight them and advocate for them. After three-plus years here I am, tattoos, loud music and all - and I plan on sticking around.