I just completed a merger, and the good news is that it didn't kill me. Though mergers are, on the whole, a considerable risk for both parties, they can prove rewarding and profitable.
If you're considering a merger for your small business, the five steps I outline below will ensure you are well prepared for your merger while keeping your sanity intact.
1. Kick the tires.
Test the business model before you commit. First, look at the type of business you run and the focus and reputation of your potential partner. Would this be a benefit for both businesses? Would you broaden your offerings together? For example, if one of you focuses on branding and marketing and the other specializes in data, could you produce full-service projects as one team? What kind of clients are on your current roster and what types of clients could you pursue if you joined forces? Would your market share increase? Could an expanded team yield success? Establish your goals and metrics for success in this stage to see if both companies align on present practices and your visions for the future.
Get into the details. To put it plainly, you're thinking of dissolving two independent companies to start an entirely new one. There's going to be paperwork – and a lot of it. Brace yourself and start planning early. Map out everything you'll need to do for the smoothest transition process possible.
Review your financials and determine if you'll need an audit or review. Revisit employee contracts. Determine whether either company has any outstanding commitments, like an office lease, for instance. With consideration to the digital presence, will there be a brand new website or can one of the existing frameworks be modified? Research available URLs that are applicable and available to purchase. What about the new email address domain? Allow time for the process, as it can take months longer than you think.
2. Build your culture before your brand.
For this step, you'll need work backwards. If the partnership is effective when it comes to services, clients, workflow and financials, determine if the office cultures would integrate well. Get to truly know the other business beyond its books before signing on the dotted line. Visit their office. Do teams from company X value a healthy work/life balance like yours? Are they more flexible with working from home? Do they enjoy company outings? How does the organizational chart flow? Is it similar to that of your company's org chart?
Decide how this new company should look from the inside out. Plan time for both teams to get to know each other. This could be anything from a casual happy hour to team building. We implemented a "take a co-worker to lunch" program, for which we randomly selected two employees (often from different departments) to have lunch together, which was paid for by the companies. Fostering team connections allows you to create a healthy work environment and give personality to the development of your new brand identity.
3. What's your new configuration?
Do you need to create an entirely new company or roll one company into the other and rebrand? You'll need to consider your trusted vendor partnerships, liability insurance, established client contracts, and payroll/HR recourse reconfiguration.
Take the time to evaluate your client needs and determine the path of least interference – no need to undo years of work. If you find yourself getting lost in the bureaucracy, hire an expert. Trust me, they're worth it.
4. Figure out who's who.
Be sure to define each employee's role before rollout, so everyone is ready to go from day one. In most mergers, there's overlap in many positions – including the leadership. Who's doing billing? Who's focusing on growth? Who's getting the team tacos every Friday? What does the org chart look like?
Evaluate team needs to eliminate or add positions accordingly, then align processes and allocation of tasks to avoid any possible confusion. Be intentional and use this period of reorganization as your opportunity to ensure an environment in which everyone is engaged and empowered to succeed.
5. Call your clients.
Keep your clients in the loop. If you allude to a possible merger in its beginning stages, then let them know when it's certain. Giving clients insight early on lets them process the changes and implications of the merger and allows you to address concerns they may have. It also provides you with an opportunity to present the benefits of the merger. Doing so can help your clients feel connected, and they are more likely to support the venture and be patient with the transition. It’s your job to show you value their business, to instill confidence in them about the merger and to get them excited for the next phase of your shared journey.
When I went through the merger process recently, taking the time to self-evaluate was a welcome and needed exercise, allowing me to reflect on why we do what we do. If you've decided a merger is right for your company, whatever the amount of work ahead, treat it as an opportunity to renew your sense of purpose and enhance what is truly special about your business for the next 10 years and beyond.
There is no doubt that the ability to adopt digital technology is becoming an integral part of everyday life, especially in the business world. But what exactly is digital adoption?
Digital adoption is the state in which people grasp digital tools and can use them to their fullest capacity. This differs from the term digital transformation, which is the process of rewiring the entirety of operations within an organization to fit into the evolving digital world.
A good example of this is car manufacturing. Back when the automobile was first invented, it was put together by human hands. As time went on, machines were built to take over some of these steps and workers had to understand how to use them (digital adoption). These days, cars are built almost entirely by machines and computer programs. The auto industry is one of many that has undergone a great deal of digital transformation.
In today’s business world, digital adoption is dependent on factors like company vision alignment, software training, effective leadership, and more. Sadly, successful digital adoption is not the norm in many organizations today. According to Michael Gale’s research on digital adoption (in collaboration with Forbes), 84 percent of companies are unable to successfully implement a tech-driven approach.
These numbers obviously cause many business leaders to question whether or not they should even bother with digital adoption. However, there is simply no fighting this trend. Here are four reasons why businesses need to look into the details of cohesive digital adoption.
1. Digital Adoption Training is Flexible and Personalized
One of the leading causes of digital adoption failure is improper training. If employees do not understand how to correctly use newly implemented technology, or are unaware of additional features, it obviously limits the effectiveness of the program.
To guarantee a successful transition, business leaders must be strategic in their training and onboarding approach. Thankfully, technology is making on-the-job training more personalized and efficient by creating more engaging learning processes.
Effective digital adoption needs a solid foundation, so by using a tech-forward training system, employees will be more empowered and prepared for the future changes. Using a robust software training system allows users to go at their own pace and learn through their preferred methods, which helps everyone utilize new digital programs to their fullest potential. By using tools that are designed to accommodate each organization, employees will receive the training they need according to their degree of involvement. So, employees who just need to know the basics can get an introduction to the system, while the IT department and upper level execs get more hands-on training.
2. Digital Adoption is a Clear Competitive Advantage
The best way for businesses to remain competitive in their industry is quite simple: offer a better customer experience (CX). Often, the CX is why people will choose one business over another, or it’s what keeps them coming back to the same brand over and again (regardless of the price).
Through the use of more digitally-driven programs, every department within the business has access to the data that is necessary for a more consistent CX. One of the best ways to get started on this is by incorporating a robust business process management (BPM). This means that everyone from the sales department, to customer service, to the marketing team has access to the information that is necessary for the company’s CX strategies through one integrated digital platform.
Digital adoption in this day and age supports a far better online UX because many approaches are designed to link Big Data analytics with practical application. For example, offering web personalization is a priority for many e-commerce and online businesses these days. This is due to the clear benefits that come along with it (like higher conversion rates, better ROI, and customer satisfaction). A comprehensive understanding of customer datasets is necessary to support personalized experiences. This is why effective digital adoption is essential. It helps teams understand how to use systems that gather this data, analyze it, and apply it to practical and profitable marketing strategies.
3. Digital Adoption Supports a Wider Audience Base
Knowing who your customers are and where they’re hanging out (at least virtually) are two important questions that marketing teams are always looking to answer. Using digital programs based in Big Data and machine learning allows companies to dive deeper into the mind of their customers and understand them on a whole new level. This means they can potentially develop into broader markets, especially as more and more online businesses are expanding into global e-commerce.
Machine learning adoption supports stronger customer analysis because it offers four key benefits:
Understanding the tools and systems that use these details about your audience can reveal new segments of customers to be targeted, which translates to more revenue.
4. Digital Adoption Supports Accelerated Growth
When properly used and implemented, digital adoption means that your business can do more in less time and with less effort. Thanks to technology, many common business processes can be automated, while tools like AI-powered chatbots can handle many of the mundane tasks that typically fall to overwhelmed customer service agents, freeing up their time for more important tasks.
Nailing down a strong digital adoption strategy can do a lot for businesses struggling to keep up with customer demand and internal responsibilities. To sustain a business along its growth trajectory, new programs and tactics will need to be utilized to support the evolving standards of the customer experience. The best way for companies that are experiencing periods of rapid expansion will find that adopting a digital first approach will allow them to grow successfully.
Embracing digital adoption will require a change in perspective. Although technology is intended to make our jobs and lives easier, adapting to a tech-driven approach is not necessarily easy in and of itself. However, with proper training systems and a deep understanding of the benefits that digitally-driven processes provide, companies small and large can begin to make the changes necessary for a successful future.
There's no shortage of inspirational quotes about failure. Failure is a stepping stone toward success, or an opportunity to begin again. Winston Churchill once said that "success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." For all of these inspiring proverbs, though, failure is not something we talk at length about with others or accept as a regular occurrence. Failure, at its core, is deeply emotional and can cause us to question everything.
The fact is that sales people fail all the time – in fact, it's part of the job. Research shows that only 66 percent of sales reps meet their sales quota on a regular basis. That would suggest that one-third of all sales reps fail to meet their targets. So how do we deal with failure when it happens to us? We can either reject it or embrace it.
According to a global survey of more than one million employees at Fortune 1000 companies, in about 85 percent of the companies surveyed, employees' morale sharply dwindles within the first six months of starting a job. This phenomenon is primarily attributed to bad management.
One of the biggest mistakes managers can make is to reject or ignore their role in how they influence and motivate their team. If we, as managers, spend the bulk of our time harping on the shortcomings of our team, morale will drop. Team leaders, instead, need to know how to navigate setbacks effectively and even use it to their team's advantage to forge ahead.
Sales people are intrinsically motivated, exceptionally optimistic and tirelessly creative, but there will always be a low point. Here are four ways that sales managers can better support their employees during the lows.
1. Understand the root cause.
The emotional ramifications attached to failing can often cloud one's judgment and make it seem like a whole team or process is broken rather than looking at a problem objectively. To find the root cause of a problem that is holding the team back or plaguing the entire organization, managers should take a step back, dissect the process, environment or sales pipeline so as to isolate the problem and find the root cause.
Sales managers, in particular, can adopt a data-driven approach to spot the root cause of the problem and remedy it. By doing so, they can reduce employees' anxiety levels, which allow workers to focus on improving in one precise area of their work rather than being caught up in an emotional maelstrom.
2. Focus on impact.
When people are proud of the work they do, they work harder, and the quality of their work is better. The employees who directly report to you want to know that their contributions have a real and positive impact on the organization. A significant reason why many employees leave jobs for new ones is that they don't feel like they or the work they do matter to the organization as a whole.
If the business, as a whole, is struggling, it's even more important to disregard the larger picture and focus on how the work your unit produces (and each employee who comprises that unit) makes a difference. For example, sales is a pillar of a company's success, so it's a manager's job to motivate the sales team on a more granular level (rather than looking at the company as a whole) to propel the team (and the company toward) prosperity.
3. Build camaraderie.
Research shows that close work relationships boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent, and work best friends are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. If we have work friends, with whom we can talk with about setbacks, like not reaching our target, we can solicit advice, learn from others' experiences and bounce back much more quickly than if we led the charge on our own. Camaraderie gives employees a stronger sense of purpose, builds positivity and facilitates a "we're all in it together" mentality.
4. Adopt a new approach to goal-setting.
Goal-setting is complicated. It is great for driving motivation and performance, but, often, our approach to goal-setting can be too simplistic. In an industry like sales, stretch goals have been proven to have a positive effect on workers. Research suggests that for jobs that are transactional and where outcomes are precisely defined, ambitious targets work well. However, in more creative positions, employees thrive better when they are given more nuanced and inspirational goals. As managers, we need to be aware that what works for some people does not automatically translate and work for others. As the manager, address employee goal-setting accordingly.
One-third of salespeople don't reach their targets on a regular basis, and because of that, managers must be motivated to show their employees that "failure" is a neutral, or even a positive, phenomenon. If we strip the stigma from failure, we'll understand how to use it to our benefit. The key is having the right outlook.