Over the last eight years, I have learned a few things regarding the integration of companies in the environmental industry. Growth by M&A, especially small, family-owned, lifestyle businesses, is often more of an art than a science. A primary objective of the integration process is to preserve the outstanding culture that supports the strategic rationale of the acquisition while managing the inevitable change associated with bringing two companies together.
Integrations require a specific cadence to be successful. That usually means increased workloads at an accelerated pace for managers on both sides who also have their “day jobs” of running the business. Leaders are often eager to check items off the integration to-do list. The benefits of combination come from standardization, synergies, and accretive processes, but take real work and acute focus to realize. There is a tendency to prioritize the simple tasks, causing branding and nomenclature to become low-hanging fruit.
All highly functioning teams get behind their brand, name, and logo. A key attribute of the companies we acquire is a dedication to the company and its mission. This comes from a genuine spot in our everyday work lives. Employees compete and go to professional “war” each day by leveraging the strength of the team. A passionate bond develops behind the company, its name, and its brand because that is what the team represents and part of what makes them great. As Brad Paisley likes to sing, “If you want to know who we are, it’s on the logos of our hats”.
That is why it is important not to “kill the mascot” and change the company name and brand too soon during integration processes. It is not fair and usually not helpful to employees or customers. Instead, we have found it helpful to implement a thoughtful rebranding plan, predicated on incremental progress, communication, and buy-in over a period ranging from 1-2 years. The staff and customers need to know that the culture of the acquired company survives in the new one. This is best done incrementally, at all levels of the org chart, as part of a structured communication process.
Most of the concerns cited about rebranding timeframes revolve around customers. Is there a cost of performing rebranding over a longer period? Will customers be confused? Usually, the answer is no. We have found that our customers are smart, familiar with M&A, and appreciate the additional capabilities facilitated by the merger. Our task as leaders is to invest heavily in the communication process, get buy-in and ensure the cultural passion transfers to the combined company. The goal is to create value and we do that first by preserving culture.
As President and CEO, Bill is responsible for the overall quality, strategy, employee development, and trajectory of Terra Nova Solutions.
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