Google the term ‘Corporate Culture’ and the web will return a myriad of academic articles referencing everything from ‘cumulative traits of human resource hires and their value orientation’ (I kid you not) to dress code and office set up policy.
We have learned a lot about corporate cultures and the importance of valuing each one. The ambition and returns of rapidly pursuing a homogeneous corporate culture across a group is one which mystifies me – why purchase a successful business only to set about hammering it into something different simply so it looks and feels the same way as yours? Whether you deem this taking the fizz out of the champagne or throwing the baby out with the bathwater, either way it seems a strategy of limited returns.
Clearly there are efficiencies and benefits to rationalising certain processes, the most obvious being invoicing, lead generation and CRM systems but in acquiring a new group company, the purchaser should remember two things - why did you want to buy this company in the first place and what made it successful before you bought it.
Expanding through acquisition offers several benefits beyond simply getting bigger. An expanded portfolio could facilitate the ability to offer a wider range of services and richer mix of clients, it may enable entry into new markets, sectors and client types – the point is that if you have a clear idea of what a target acquisition can contribute, when on the hunt for business you stand a much greater chance of success in choosing the right one to purchase and that may mean you end up working with an organisation culturally very different from your own.
In every way it is far more important to focus on the bigger picture, namely that of shared vision and values.
Any profitable company has a culture that supports its achievement and the chances are that it knows its target market at least as well as you. Consequently imposing your policies on them as soon as the ink is dry on the contract is vanity, not leadership. Think of merging two businesses, especially ones with a workforce that is noticeably different in terms of demographics or expertise as asking someone to get into a hot bath; jumping straight in is unpleasant whereas dipping your toe in and going from there should end up as a rather nice experience.
The respective boards of each business are going to be key to this and it is crucial that they share the belief that shared ambition and proven profitability makes for a happy business marriage. Whilst an acquired company’s practices may raise a few eyebrows amongst the old guard, if it is inherent in the acquired business’ DNA then don’t oppose it, the chances are as the two companies merge longer term, they will naturally start to look and feel more closely aligned. In short, happy and positive corporate cultures are grown, not imposed.
By Tim Peppiatt Founder and CEO of Marketing Services Business, Paperhat Group