26: Jennifer Fondrevay: Surviving and Thriving Through M&A

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On this episode of The Manage Your Message Podcast host Jim Karrh speaks with Jennifer Fondrevay. Jennifer is the Founder of Day1 Ready, a merger and acquisitions consultancy that works with leaders to accelerate productivity throughout the process. She wrote her book Now What? A Playbook for Thriving Through M&A to help both executives and middle managers find the opportunities in change.

There have been historically high levels of M&A in recent years, all over the business world. That trend is likely to continue because companies, private equity firms, and family offices are still holding billions in cash and looking for acquisition opportunities.

Jennifer interviewed 65 executives and managers – “survivors and practitioners,” as she put it – in order to learn from different perspectives. A key finding was how acquiring companies underestimated the complexity of “the people piece” of the deals. They were typically surprised by how quickly the combined companies descended into three forms of “us-versus-them” thinking:

  • Our company vs. their company
  • Senior leadership vs. front-line managers
  • Those who stay vs. those who go (“Everyone thinks the other side got the better deal”)

While the typical pattern is to focus on the financials of a deal and work on the people aspects later, Jennifer says it’s far more effective to consider the human capital involved from the very beginning. She says, “Day 1 of any deal is the moment you first start thinking about M&A as a growth strategy.” Business owners, from that point, approach their decisions differently.

Messaging has a particularly important role in the effectiveness (or lack thereof) in a merger. Leaders need to know how to communicate the deal internally as well as externally, so that the integration is set up for success.

Three of the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Recognize that your internal audiences will likely have a negative view from the outset
  • Avoid clichés (e.g. “nothing is changing,” “this is a merger of equals,” “we expect minimum reductions in staff”) which only serve to elevate skepticism even more
  • Be as transparent as possible

 

Links

Learn more about Jennifer Fondrevay

https://jenniferjfondrevay.com/

Find Jennifer on LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-fondrevay/

Jennifer’s article in Harvard Business Review

https://hbr.org/2018/05/after-a-merger-dont-let-us-vs-them-thinking-ruin-the-company

Jennifer’s article on The Secret Language of M&A

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/secret-language-mergers-acquisitions-ma-part-i-fondrevay/

Learn more about Jim Karrh

https://jimkarrh.com/

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https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimkarrh

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