Making an acquisition or selling a business is naturally not something most business owners have done more than once. Getting your message right is one of the most important parts of the deal, as ‘business as usual’ is the only factor that provides certainty with a sale internally and ultimately with clients. If you are considering or have started the process of selling your business or acquiring another brokerage, below are some do’s and don’t’s for the communication process that we’ve learnt over the years.
Below are some hints and tips to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible – and that you are saying all the right things, when acquiring another insurance brokerage:
Initial Announcement of an Acquisition to Employees
It is important to let your employees know earlier rather than later about a merger or acquisition – as there is likely gossip which gets out, regardless of NDAs that get signed by various parties. Springing a huge change on them quickly could increase the likelihood that they will leave your organisation, or at the very least feel unsettled.
The initial announcement will be responsible for letting your employees and significant contacts, such as investors, know that you are currently working on closing a merger or acquisition. The announcement should include the following information:
- Details about the company.
- Effective date.
- Reason for the merger or acquisition.
- Goals, impacts, and new objectives of the deal.
- Continuation and business as usual.
- Added value and the wider service proposition.
- Information on the specific business being merged or acquired. What do they do? What specialisms do they have? Try to show it is to complement the business and not put their department under threat.
Welcome Letter to New Employees from Acquired Company
A welcome letter is a great way to start an open dialogue of honesty and transparency with new employees, as well as creating an inviting culture that will hopefully assist with retention issues. From our experience, where people in local offices are stuck in their ways they can be reluctant to accept change. Be open and approachable, stating that if employees have any questions whatsoever, to pick up the phone.
Retention of clients is ultimately the biggest goal.
The letter or communication to clients of the acquired business should include:
- Notification of the acquisition.
- A big welcome.
- Date it will become effective.
- The reasoning for the acquisition.
- How it will impact their business.
- Any new services that you will be able to provide them.
- Logistical information (such as new location or website).
- Contact information in case of questions.
What to think about to make sure the message is impartial and factually correct
- “Quotes” from both businesses, such as the Managing Director or other relevant people involved in the merger and acquisition deal. These should be from both the seller and the purchaser.
- Contact information for a press representative at your organisation. This may simply be yourself but you may also want to make sure it is you and not somebody else in the business.
- Boilerplate legal information provided by your solicitor. The press probably won’t use this but it will make sure the deal is factually correct.
What will the press ask?
For your press release, you will want to include similar information to that which was used in the announcement to the acquired clients, however you will also want to be strategic in the specific information you release. This should be tailored for trade press, local press, and sector specific press. Be aware that the press may push you for information you perhaps do not want to disclose, for example on office closures and redundancies but you should take care not to let it turn into a negative story.
And remember… you do not have to release the sale figure!
Ongoing Regular Communication is key!
Once the sale or purchase announcement has been made, customer reactions will vary depending on their perception, personal experiences, and existing relationships.
The most important benefit with mergers and acquisitions is your ability to serve the new customers better. Introduce updated logistical information, such as a new co-branded website, location, and logo over time to show the businesses coming together.
The excitement of an acquisition usually wears away quite quickly – and is more exciting for the senior management than day-to-day employees. Employees need a way to stay motivated to see its continued success.
This is where ongoing communication is useful. The Managing Director should be giving regular updates about the success of the deal, and goals of the merger – for the benefit of the employees, and the business.
In larger businesses, it is not uncommon for the marketing and communications department to steer the first leap towards team integration. Creating opportunities for social gatherings and encouraging everyone to rid themselves of “us versus them” language is a great first step. This is a big change to many employees, who may have worked in the acquired firm for many years. It is important to build a new foundation of trust before exploring tough topics, such as skills overlap or job changes. Creating FAQs and talking points for employees is important so everyone has guidance on how external communication should be conducted.
Brand Brown can support your business with tailored communications such as welcoming new clients, engaging employees and merging the two brands.
Brand Brown can help manage the brand and communications process for you, leaving you to focus on crucial aspects of the deal.
Contact Robert Brown in confidence on 020 3675 2424