Every sector that Bubble works in experiences mergers and acquisitions from time to time; indeed, it is part of everyday life, with even two of the UK’s main brand supermarkets up to it. In my 20-odd year career I have worked on the PR for many acquisitions, and advised companies on what to do from a branding and marketing perspective. (I will never forget one of my old bosses telling me that an acquisition takes two years to settle in – well, in this dynamic, fast moving world I am not sure that anyone has the time for two years’ adjustment!)
As we approach another IBC, we may well see more large brand consolidations; the show will also co-host a new ‘speed dating’ event that will match start-up and scale-up businesses with media organisations and investors, with the aim of establishing partnerships and acquisitions.
Even if you aren’t buying or selling at the moment, you never know when your company or a close partner/customer might be involved in M&A. Here are some top tips for making the process a success – for both sides.
Acquisitions are exciting, they get the blood pumping and you know that you are going to get a lot of attention when you send the news out. My top tip here (apart from building disco naps into your day to help with the tiredness) is to find a way to keep the excitement going within your team once the news has all died down. This is when the hard work really starts, so you could celebrate the ‘one month anniversary’ since you came together with a piece of cake for both sides of the party. It’s a bit like weddings reminding you of why you fell in love.
When you acquire a company you need to be sure that you have people in place to support the new business you have gained. Getting the right talent in the right place is crucial for that post-acquisition period to make it as smooth and quick as possible, so start your search early for the people you may need. If possible, maintain good relations with the previous owner as they will be able to provide invaluable advice and institutional memory.
Knowing all of the details of the acquisition is crucial for both sides; even though the legal documents can be enough to put you to sleep it is important to understand the key elements of the deal – what assets did it include, how long is your earn-out if you have one, what restrictions are there, are there any stakeholders that need to remain involved? It is worth having a crib sheet of these important things, and also to make sure all levels of the organisations know the parts that are relevant to them.
Whether you have been acquired or you are the acquirer, you will have new audiences to deal with and you need to make friends quickly. This needs to be very much part of the plan; when people start asking questions, as they tend to do on social media these days, you need to be able to answer them – honestly and quickly.
This is just a snapshot of advice and lessons that we have learnt over the years. Let’s see what M&A takes place in the next few months and how it all plays out.