When it comes to acquisitions, the “closing date” is often seen as the crescendo of a purchase. But for buyers, the attention shifts quickly to assessing the organizational health of the acquisition, the technology it possesses, and the financial controls in place to develop an integration plan. With pitfalls identified and areas of focus in mind, how do you draft an integration plan? First of all, the plan should be collaborative – involve people from both sides of the table, as well as outside advisors. A collaborative approach allows leaders to give input, which often translates to their “buy-in.” The plan should follow a general process:
- Identification of strategic objectives, usually from the investment thesis
- Information gathering
- Analysis and development of the general plan components
- Evaluation and feedback from plan stakeholders and outside advisors
- Drafting of the final plan and detailed steps within broader segments
The first phase of the program will be to determine significant business goals, timing, and execution to appropriately prioritize tasks. Those determined to be the low hanging fruit will likely move to the top of the list, as small wins on the front end will create momentum and excitement to accomplish more complex initiatives.
Next, gather the necessary information. Similar to the previous discussion surrounding employee interviews, the buyer sets out to obtain input from all areas of the business – finance, accounting, IT, tax, legal, compliance, operations, treasury, marketing, and human resources. This information can undoubtedly be documentation in many instances, but a buyer would be remiss if they didn’t use this opportunity to learn more about the people and culture of the company.
With objectives in one hand and information in the other, begin to analyze what is collected. The integration plan will work to align strategic goals and objectives with the status quo. The program should achieve these goals most efficiently, and plan developers should communicate on the high-level integration plan, which is the next phase.
The integration team lead should then compile the components of the initial plan for review and circulation amongst the team. Again, keep it high level and don’t get lost in details. Start with guideposts initially, as opposed to diving into the weeds too early. The planned development and ensuing conversations will use these broad categories as a starting point. The collaborative process will help to shape the detailed steps.
With a general plan in place, focus groups can now fill in all the details. The plan should include specific steps with explanations and timelines. Develop SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound). Once completed, the various company departments should review for approval. The process of implementation can now begin.
For those who spend time and effort on integration – especially during the first 100 days – growth via acquisition can be a vital part of your overall growth strategy. The process should be well planned and used as an opportunity to align the interest of both companies for future growth and success.
By David Killion and Bryan Graiff of Brown Smith Wallace. For more information on developing a post-merger integration plan, contact David Killion, Transaction Advisory Principal, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314.983.1304.