By Patrick Gallagher, Chief Executive, CitySprint
As the world emerges from the global recession, one of the signs of renewed optimism is the increase in M&A activity. Recent research from Dealogic showed that we are on track to hit a record level of global M&A in 2014, with deals totalling $1.3 trillion in the year-to-date. This trend may be slow to reach the UK, where M&A has played second fiddle to a rush of new listings, but renewed confidence will no doubt lead to increased deal making in Britain.
CitySprint’s Collaborate UK report showed that 83% of SMEs are more confident, or as confident as, the same time last year and I expect this positivity to be reflected in increased M&A activity amongst businesses of this size. Of course, every deal is different, but there are a few basic principles that SME owners should consider when embarking on a merger or acquisition.
First, it is important that company culture is a central consideration in any decision to merge with or acquire another business. As appealing as the thought of a bigger consumer reach or a broader portfolio of products or services is, it shouldn’t cloud the judgment of a company’s management. It is important to remember that a deal will only benefit your business if the companies can integrate. This means that both sets of employees need to buy into a shared culture.
Second, customers of both businesses must recognise the benefits of the new offering. People are often wary of change, so existing customers must be reassured that the new company’s offering will equal or improve on the status quo. It’s important to make the time to talk suppliers, customers and all other stakeholders through the reasons for the deal and how it will benefit all parties.
From my experience working with SMEs, business leaders (and employees) have often built or helped to build companies from the ground up and, rightly, take a great deal of personal pride in it. This makes it important to reassure existing staff that their achievements are recognised, and that the deal will strengthen, rather than dismantle, what they have created. It is crucial to engage employees in a dialogue that places listening ahead of lecturing; only a two-way, collaborative conversation can win over apprehensive or skeptical staff.
Mergers and acquisitions are challenging and require commitment and dedication from all parties. Should these deals become more frequent, it is important that small business owners pay attention to detail, inform their employees and keep uncertainty to a minimum. It can be a difficult journey but, with a shared vision, businesses can maintain their culture, strengthen their offering and broaden their customer base.