This phase is likely to have started before the signed agreements are finalised. A plan and timescale will have been drawn up and each party needs to appoint a team to carry out the work. It is often the case that an external, temporary resource is involved, to project manage the plan delivery.
Stakeholder management is a matter to be missed at your peril! There is a great deal of change in the air during a merger and all involved are concerned about their future, not just whether they will have a job, but how change will upset their equilibrium – people like routine and predictability. Your own plan needs to address this and should fold into your communications and integration plans. The timing of notifying staff and clients is a difficult call,. Do you do it early and risk the deal failing or do you do it late and risk market rumour? There is no hard and fast answer as each deal is different and we will advise on the best way to suit your transaction.
People: much effort will have been expended on deciding what impact the merger will have on the respective staffs of both parties. Staff cuts are almost always inevitable, especially in non-fee earning staff. If cuts are likely, it’s important to have planned and communicated these as early as possible with the potentially affected parties, in order to avoid the spectre of unfair dismissal and to keep business disruption to a minimum. This part of the plan should have been sufficiently well thought out that it’s only necessary to do it once and then it should be done as quickly and decisively as possible.
Clients: retaining clients of both practices is essential. A communication plan explaining the benefit of the merger to clients should be implemented at the same time as the announcement of the deal. Key clients should be actively managed face to face and indeed soundings taken from them prior to the deal to ensure their continued retention.
Management and Organisational structure can be a deal breaker and may have been addressed during the detailed negotiations. It is a vital element of how the practice will operate post-merger. Key elements will include:
- Management board; membership and decision making powers
- Putting aside the legal structure; the organisational structure will be fundamental to profit enhancement. Will the practice be managed by geography, by discipline or by function or (worst of all!) all of them?
- Management structure; who will lead each part of the organisational structure and what will be their level of authority?
IT Systems – part of the plan will also have been dedicated to decisions about how the IT infrastructure is going to function in the NewCo and how the financial, case and client information is to be integrated. The IT supplier chosen to provide systems to NewCo will normally manage this process, but the supplier will need to be part of the project management plan.
Plan Tracking – the business plan drawn up for NewCo should be used as a tracking benchmark against which the actual business performance is regularly measured so that opportunities are not missed for the hoped-for synergies and profit improvement that was the original aim.