When Acquiring A Firm Becomes A Mess by Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Acquiring A Firm
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Acquiring A Firm

Dear Bev,

We just acquired another advisory firm. We had planned to do this for a while, and the actual acquisition took a few years to complete. We were meticulous in our planning process, and everything should be good right now. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a mess. People are tripping over one another, no one seems to remember what their jobs should be and the tension is palpable. Is there a way to start over and include some of the human elements that you write about?


Dear L.L.,

That’s the wonderful thing about life and change: we can always “start over.” Yes, in any situation if we find we’ve not planned the way we should have or that we are faced with surprises, it’s never too late to reset. Actually, now that you have everyone from the acquired firm in place, it’s a great time to step back and figure out what things have been missed. A few recommendations:

  1. Whatever path you choose, consider using it as a teambuilding exercise for everyone to work together. Perhaps you could pose a business issue that needs to be addressed and have some sort of offsite or team meeting with people working together to solve it.
  2. Refine and strengthen the job descriptions and organization chart. If people are tripping over one another and misremembering their jobs, there isn’t clarity about who is doing what and for whom. This can cause stress and chaos, so make sure these are as clear and as tight as they can be.
  3. Review with the overall team what has worked and then outline the things that still need to be addressed. In an acquisition there are multiple steps over a long time period that will get addressed. Be positive about what you have done right, communicate it and then focus on what needs to be done. People like to hear that management recognizes things still to be addressed and that they are working on them.
  4. Create an advisory group of a few employees who represent different areas. While they won’t be the only decision-makers, you can charge them with gathering and communicating information. It’s a great way to engage staff so that all of the work doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the leaders!

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