How to survive a merger


With every merger or acquisition, as many as 15 per cent of employees (that's more than one in six) in the combined organization can expect to face the axe.

And even where the new organization tries hard to keep key staff, the fact is that most of the senior management will leave within two or three years.

If you don't want to be a statistic, you need to know the smart way to survive being bought. Which is where a new book by Professor Scott Moeller, M&A expert at Cass Business School in London could prove to be – quite literally – a career-saver.

Intelligent M&A: Navigating the Mergers and Acquisitions Minefield, co-authored with Professor Chris Brady, looks at both the smart way to buy a company and how to survive the aftermath, with these essential survival strategies for those involved in a merger.

Insinuate yourself in the merger process: In becoming part of the merger planning and design, you can make contacts with management from the acquiring firm and gain information that can be personally valuable to your career

Don't assume that your own boss will take care of you: "As with everyone else in the organization, your boss will be looking out for him/herself first," say the authors. Moreover, "your boss may even have less of an idea than you do as to how decisions will be made."

Stay around the office: Become more visible, be the hardest worker (or at least be perceived as such), and don't go on holiday.

Listen to your secretary: "Receptionists, secretaries, and personal assistants often know the most about what's happening. These team members may have valuable sources of information outside the official management party line."

Network for external intelligence: "Often, those outside the company will know more, and will be more objective, than many internally will."

Link yourself with your clients: "The company will be less willing to make you redundant for fear of losing your clients – and their revenue."

Be flexible: The positions most likely to be retained after a merger may be in a different city or different department.

Prepare your defence, even if you think your job is secure: Secure your contract, update your CV, call headhunters.

Take advantage of a career switch: "Prospective employers assume that every merger has the consequence that good people leave – and the market often assumes that the best people are the ones that leave first." Use this perception to jump start to a new company or career.

This is excellent, potentially career-saving advice, to which we'd add a few salient thoughts from Patricia Soldati, the most important of which is simple. Don't think it can't happen to you.


Older Comments

As one of the authors of the book, I would like to thank you for your excellent summary of the key points we made in the last chapter of our book about surviving a merger or acquisition. Your additional note from Patricia Soldati is also extremely important -- that is, never assume it can't happen to you. During a merger integration, all too often the decisions about who to retain and who to fire are made on political grounds or with an appalling lack of due diligence and 'intelligence gathering' on the part of those responsible for the hire/fire decisions. That's why everyone's at risk, even the high performers. We discuss this further in our blog:

Scott Moeller London