Thursday, April 23, 2009

Applying Merger and Acquisition lessons to a growing small business

The MIT Sloan Management Review in the Fall of 2008 identified six lessons from studying M&A activity:
  1. Reduce role ambiguity - You may have several managers with previously overlapping duties, clear up who does what. This helps reduce attrition.
  2. Due diligence is a must - Just as two M&A firms must understand their counter party, a growing business must perform the necessary due diligence on its current and future leaders. Choices must be conscientiously made as to who will lead the organization. It is especially important to keep the future of the growing business in mind, making sure you have a pipeline of potential future leaders, and enough people who can grow with the firm (from managing 5 to 35 people, as an example).
  3. Be specific about how things are done - "That's not how we do things here" is a signal that you have a company culture
  4. Don't tolerate bad behavior - cliques, information asymmetries and sabotage of decision making are the hallmarks of bad behavior and looming problems. Don't tolerate when you are small, don't tolerate it as you grow either.
  5. Practice patience - the inner workings of your company are maturing, it will take time to learn who is good at what, etc.
  6. Measure and celebrate your growth - If you don't measure it, you don't know how you are performing. And if you don't make successes publicly known and celebrated, they aren't shared and don't become a part of your culture.
All in all I think they are pretty useful. GE has one of the absolute best M&A methodologies I've ever seen. There are a wealth of academic items studying and elaborating it. Easily portable to another organization as well.
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