Editor's View

Time to practise what we preach

Jun 06 issue

Old clichés: doctors are the worst patients, investment bankers are careless with their own money and solicitors aren’t always meticulous when sorting out their own legal arrangements. In the next few months we’re going to find out whether two publishing companies, each of which spends a lot of time writing about how to make successful acquisitions, can actually put their theoretical knowledge into practice and make their own acquisition a success.

A perfect fit?
Last week, we bought the company that publishes M&A Magazine (www.mandamag.com). The acquisition ticks all the right boxes for us: focused entrepreneurs, similar but not overlapping content, a range of customers broadly in our area but many are unknown to us. Should be perfect! So what can go wrong?

Conventional wisdom says that you should have the integration plan in place and start actions on day one. This is not how we’re going to move forward. Partly this is out of necessity because, although the two businesses know each other well, the acquisition in the end occurred very quickly and there has simply been no time to progress a detailed integration plan before completion. But this decision is also a result of our experiences with previous, much smaller, acquisitions. The first two came without employees, as they were products, and these proved relatively easy to merge into the rest of the business.

Lessons learned
Our last acquisition, however, was essentially a team of people with expertise in event management. Bringing a different set of characters and skills into our organisation has set many challenges and I can see how we might have approached it more effectively. One lesson that we should take is that without assimilation of hearts and minds for an acquisition that consists of people skills and intellectual property we will not reap the full benefits. Hearts and minds don’t instantly bond, unlike merging, for example, a contract to print magazine titles.

The key to the success of bringing together M&A Magazine with the rest of our business is information-sharing. Integration consists of sharing systems for content management and customer relationship management, coupled with building strong links between the two sets of management and staff. Both teams agree the goals and ambitions, but trust is not an overnight concept. Let’s pray progress is over days, weeks and months rather than years.