Recently, after 20 years as an independent company, Softvision agreed to terms to be acquired by Cognizant, one of the world’s leading professional services firms.
I have had the opportunity to acquire companies in the past, but this was the first time where I was on the other side of the table as the acquisition target. Instead of dictating the terms and leading the process, the experience was quite different.
With the benefit of hindsight, and Softvision and Cognizant starting to think through respective integration and collaboration issues, there are a number of key learnings I experienced as a result of the acquisition that are worth sharing:
1. Business Doesn’t Stop During An Acquisition
It sounds obvious, but it’s an important point. It’s easy to get distracted by ongoing conversations and negotiations, to look ahead to start planning for timing for potential internal and external announcements and pull senior people together for update meetings.
But while you may be dealing with a host of acquisition-related issues, the business doesn’t stop and it’s critical to ensure that teams stay focused and not distracted.
The highest priority should continue to be your customers. Assemble a small group of executives and keep them apprised of the negotiations and developments, but limit it to a handful of key people to prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunications, especially if the deal should not go through. Start and finish each day by dealing with current business and client-related issues; it will demonstrate to everyone what’s most important.
2. Prioritize Goals And Objectives For The Acquisition
Providing that the rationale for the acquisition is not related to an urgent financial crisis at your organization, it’s a good idea to prioritize what you want to achieve from the deal. For Softvision, it was an ability to scale our guilds/studios and pods model to provide more and better opportunities to our people as well as our clients. We understood that a larger platform of developers, engineers, designers and programming talent at Cognizant would enable Softvision to be more effective in the delivery of sustainable innovation, both to our existing clients but also potential ones as well.
Be sure you’re clear on your goals and objectives for doing a deal. It should not be just for short-term gains but also for long-term solutions like investments in infrastructure, equipment and future innovations that can transform the way you service your market, recruit talent and attract new customers.
3. Be Diligent But Work Quickly
The process of being acquired can increase anxiety and stress for everyone involved. It felt a bit like I was working a few CEO jobs while I was going through the process, and I know for a fact that my team was also feeling the same. In some respects, it’s similar to developing new software products and solutions for clients: Once you frustrate your users, they may not give you another chance to get it right. For example, when it comes to mobile, savvy and digitally evolved brands anticipate their customers’ needs and provide value before they know they need it.
Clients expect the proof of concepts for new AI or blockchain models to be flawless and point to a promising future, all while you have to run reports and create huge amounts of due diligence when the acquiring company wants to understand the inner workings of your business.
And remember, this all occurs with no real guarantees that the deal will go through.
That said, as conversations take place and negotiations start to bear fruit, it’s critical to be honest and try not to drag the process out too long because if this happens, the level of distraction that this generates can negatively impact the current business.
In short, don’t sweat the small stuff and quickly work toward resolutions.
4. Stay True To Your Vision
Recognize what got you to where you are, and hold true to your vision.
For Softvision, Cognizant recognized the power of our guilds, and in turn, this told me a lot about the organization and its level of commitment. It was important to us to continue to build a world-class community of global talent, infused with technology and design innovation in every Softvision studio.
While Cognizant is much larger than we are, it understands our DNA and believes in our vision. Instead of choosing to dilute it, which often happens in an acquisition, it chose to expand that vision. For me and my team, this validation was rewarding and exciting. It’s easy to lose sight of this if you feel you’re only making concessions.
5. Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat
It’s a bit cliché, but it holds true. And this applies not just when it comes to negotiating but also in the way you interact and respond to direct reports and the rest of the company during this process. It can be time-consuming and challenging, but never lose your cool. Instead, go out of your way to treat everyone with fairness and respect. If everyone sees your demeanor change, it could hamper both the negotiations and internal relationships. People may also assume that this will be the new normal once the deal is completed. But by keeping a level head and having grace under pressure, people will respect you more both during and after the acquisition.
Each acquisition, whether you’re acquiring a firm or being acquired, is different. But try to have the foresight to look ahead at what the new company or partnership will look like two to three years down the road and how the combined technology resources and services will deliver new and better solutions to the industry. That vision for the future will help you set your course and keep the organization focused on the things that matter most.
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