Protecting Existing Revenue and Driving New Growth in Mergers & Acquisitions

Several CEOs have admitted to me that their biggest concern about an impending acquisition or merger is losing sales momentum. While potential cost synergies get most of the attention, in highly competitive industries, losing focus for a couple of months can cause a downward spiral in revenue (and profits) that is difficult to halt, putting the whole deal benefits in jeopardy.

Without a doubt, the M&A process creates a period of time where the organisations involved are inwardly focused. However, once a deal is in play it is vital for CEOs and sales leaders on both sides to concentrate on their customers and put strategies in place to keep their sales teams motivated and performing.

Clear leadership is essential to ensure that the most valuable customers, sales and service staff are not lured away by the competition, who are likely doing their best to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the impact of the deal. Focusing on those qualities that are particularly sensitive to customer retention, such as ease and speed of service, peace of mind, consistency and reassurance are more important than ever.

Once the deal is done, uniting sales teams is a big challenge that is highly visible to others inside and outside of the organisation. There can be considerable competitive ego involved, significant differences in remuneration policies, and sometimes opposing ways of working. In some cases, sales teams that have been bitter rivals for years are suddenly expected to work happily together in the interests of the customers and the company.

It is not an easy transition; emotional costs are high, which impacts on performance, engagement and ultimately financial results.

According to a 2015 M&A Capabilities Survey by McKinsey, more than a third of companies fail to achieve their revenue goals after a merger. Interestingly, more than half the respondents put that failure down to a critical gap in sales and marketing merger capabilities within their integration teams.

In their article “Merge to grow: Realizing the full commercial potential of your merger”, McKinsey suggests seven key activities to help companies protect existing, and drive new, revenue, which I have paraphrased below:

1.      Establish a commercial integration management office, staffed with your best players, who are accountable for the integration effort

2.      Identify sources of value and validate the deal model to set realistic targets

3.      Gain the commitment of senior leaders and establish clear roles and governance

4.      Preserve and protect existing revenue by moving quickly to provide certainty and clarity around the responsibility for customers and territories

5.      Invest in clear and effective communications to staff and customers

6.      Retain your top sales talent as a priority

7.      Actively address cultural differences that truly have an impact on the value at stake and at risk

Avoiding the M&A Failure Club book coverM&As are about creating more value and revenue synergies can obviously deliver significant benefits.

Creating customer value and keeping the sales momentum is discussed in chapter six of my new book “Avoiding the M&A Failure Club”. If you’re an executive responsible for the success of your next merger or acquisition you can click here for a complimentary copy.

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From Mentor to Mentee – Senior leaders want Mentors too!

It can be lonely at the top and it’s often difficult for senior leaders to know who to turn to for confidential, objective advice and sound guidance, especially when faced with situations they’ve never tackled before. More and more, top executives are seeking mentoring relationships with other senior leaders who can challenge their thinking and provide additional perspectives.

Research outlined in an interesting HBR article “CEO’s Need Mentors Too” found that 71% of CEOs with formal mentoring arrangements were certain that company performance had improved as a result. They reported that they were making better decisions, more capably fulfilling stakeholder expectations, avoiding costly mistakes and becoming more proficient in their roles, faster.

The Leaders Mentor (TLM) is a new venture that aims to inspire, challenge and develop senior leaders, so they can approach every facet of their role with passion, direction and confidence. The Leaders Mentor offers peer to peer mentoring that enables senior leaders to address their leadership challenges and opportunities utilising a unique curated approach that brings them the right mentoring and subject matter expertise at the right moment.

“Our team brings a wide range of skills and life experiences gained in corporate, local government, government and small business environments. We understand where our clients are coming from because we know what it is like to do what they do,” said Kerry Osborne, Director at The Leaders Mentor.

As the CEO of Peak Performance International, I’ve benefited from being both a mentor and a mentee, which is why I’m delighted be a lead mentor for TLM. You can find out more at The Leaders Mentor website or contact me (linley.watson@theleadersmentor.com.au) to facilitate a confidential initial discussion.

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Posted in Business, Leadership & Management, Leadership Development, Learning and Development, Mentoring, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tale of 3 Cultures – Insights for M&A Culture Integration

Reducing the risk of M&A failure due to people and culture factors is now becoming a priority for CEOs in acquisition mode. One way of doing that is by understanding the culture of the entities being amalgamated. A cultural values assessment is a fast and simple process that can yield profound insights to help reduce the risks of culture clash and speed up integration.

My latest article, A Tale of 3 Cultures – Insights for M&A Culture Integration” published in Spark Magazine, outlines three recent case studies that will be of interest to senior executives responsible for the success of their M&A deals.

Contact me for more information.

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Posted in Assessment & Profiling Tools, Business, Culture, Culture Assessment, Culture Change, Culture Integration, M&A, Mergers & Acquisitions | Leave a comment

A Peak Performance Case Study: Assessing Cultural Values

In times of major change it is useful to find out what is and what’s not working in your culture. A cultural values assessment using Corporate Transformation Tools (CTT) from Barrett Values Centre is one way we helped this client to find out.

This ASX listed entity is a global leader in its industry and was born from a challenging demerger. The ‘why’ of the demerger made good sense but there were significant legacy systems, process and people issues that had to be resolved on the way to forging its own identity and culture.  A new, first time CEO and executive team was in place and new values and behaviours had been decided and promoted.

A year into it, they wanted a baseline view of their culture so they could see whether their espoused values and behaviours were becoming embedded and if there was a clear vision of the future. They wanted to pinpoint where to focus their efforts and a way to measure progress.

An extensive Cultural Values Assessment (CVA) was conducted across four regions, in 3 languages, and in online and paper-based format so people working in the field with limited computer access could participate. More than 2000 people responded.

An organisation in crisis

It was clear that they were an organisation in crisis. The size of the leadership team had doubled and the drawn out transition to a new matrix structure had not gone well. Prevalent values including cost reduction, bureaucracy, confusion, long hours and low morale were limiting their progress and negatively affecting their results.

The survey reflected that lowering costs was the driving force in the business. Employees were worried about their jobs and lack of access to vital resources and knowledge to empower their efforts. There was no clear direction to guide people’s actions and decisions, and they were overworked navigating rigid systems and processes to meet immediate needs. Staff were exhausted and deflated in the face of constant change.

People acknowledged the current values – acting profitably, continuous improvement, teamwork and being an agent of change, were on the right track. In order to become a high performing organisation they also called for open communication, customer focus, balance (home/work), positive attitude, adaptability and employee recognition.

From insights to action

The CVA survey was just the start of the culture conversation. After sharing the results the organisational development (OD) manager conducted numerous focus groups or ‘listening sessions’ to better understand the behaviours that demonstrated current and desired values. Based on this feedback they chose to focus on a few key themes that impacted the whole company: Communicate, Celebrate and Simplify.

There was a commercial group already tasked with simplifying systems and re-engineering processes. A comprehensive communications plan was relentlessly actioned and a working group established to improve reward and recognition. To lift morale and productivity, a highly visible and engaging program that celebrated and rewarded performance while demonstrating the organisation’s values and behaviours was implemented globally.

Round Two

To track progress, the survey was repeated a year later. The overall level of dysfunction had diminished from a crisis situation to one still requiring attention. It showed that employee recognition had become successfully embedded but there was still a lot of work to be done.

This time they decided to ‘slice and dice’ the data to drill even further down into specific demographics such as location, business unit, role level and brand. The 91 data cuts provided deeper insight into the many sub cultures that existed and enabled leaders to take more accountability for their results and the actions required.

Leaders make the difference

One executive was unconvinced of the culture survey’s value so the OD manager presented him with a colour coded, one pager ranking the scores for each of the areas he was responsible for. He soon realised the impact leadership has on culture and commented that if he hadn’t seen the survey results and had to rank the strength of his leaders, he would have come up with the same list in the same order.  With new found confidence in the data he identified the key issues for each area and worked with individual managers to come up with a plan of action.

This organisation started to make some good progress culturally and continued to grapple with the massive shifts required. Arguably demergers are even more difficult than mergers. It was interesting to note that the values of the Executive team were highly skewed to the individual level, with limited importance placed on relationships. This was always going to make working collaboratively and focusing on people more of a challenge for them as individuals and as a team.

The consequences

The culture survey stressed the dire situation and pinpointed the urgent issues to address. Progress was being made at the grass roots level however, change at the senior leadership level did not come soon enough for the Board. The original CEO departed, making way for further leadership changes and staff redundancies. The appetite for culture development diminished, the organisational development function was disestablished and this form of measurement was stopped. Almost five years on, the company is continuing to transform. An international CEO and new leadership team are taking the company in a new direction and they are making progress financially.

Demergers or divestitures are not uncommon. The type of cultural insights uncovered about this organisation were hugely valuable although hugely confronting. The original CEO showed courage in adopting this transparent process which gave leaders a clear roadmap on where to focus and a measure of progress, something that is reportedly now lacking from a cultural perspective.

What would a cultural values assessment reveal about your organisation?
If you’d like to know, reach out to me on email.

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Posted in Assessment & Profiling Tools, Business, Culture, Culture Assessment, Culture Change, Mergers & Acquisitions, Organisational Change, Organisational Values | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is REACH the new GROW in Coaching? 

Coaching is now considered a core skill for leaders at all levels. Defined by Sir John Whitmore as “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance,” coaching emerged in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s as a means to empower individuals and teams to reach their goals in the workplace. Good coaches worked with individuals using a variety of tools, skills and frameworks to inspire and motivate people to draw on the resources and competencies they have within themselves.

GROW has endured to become the world’s most popular coaching framework.  Born out of the need to understand and leverage what makes a successful coaching conversation, the GROW model which stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Wrap-Up, has guided coaching conversations for close to thirty years.

Today’s most professional coaches draw from up-to-date knowledge of the behavioural and social sciences. They understand how to develop human potential and have an approach that fosters building not just individual but organisational capability. This has required continual development of tools to enable and support practitioners to have deeply transformational conversations.

One of the contemporary tools gaining traction is the REACH© coaching model. Built to address some of the perceived short comings of other tools, REACH© is now well-established and replacing the GROW model in a wide range of organisations across Australasia and beyond.

A healthy start for REACH©

The REACH coaching model was developed by Kathy McKenzie, CEO of Fire Up Coaching in 2008 to meet the needs of a large client in the Health sector. Coaching was still in its infancy in Australia and they needed a holistic model for having coaching conversations that was sophisticated enough to enable the depth of conversations that arise in the Health context but practical enough to roll out on a large scale. Evidence based coaching was also gaining momentum and REACH provided a more robust approach to supporting capability development.

When they looked at the popular GROW coaching framework the client noted that the model jumps straight into goal setting without acknowledging how critical rapport is to the success of a coaching relationship.  They wanted to really emphasise the building of rapport and trust to help people open up and engage fully in the process.

Another key aspect perceived as missing in GROW was around the coachee internalising the value and importance of achieving their goal. Ensuring they could clarify and articulate the reason or the benefits of getting their desired outcome McKenzie believed made it more likely that they would take the actions they had identified to achieve it.  This was also validated by the research coming from the International Coach Federation.

Often people get very little validation and acknowledgement for their efforts. McKenzie and colleagues had long since realised that concluding a coaching conversation by authentically honouring the coachee meant they left the session energised, believing that they can achieve what is important to them and feeling good about who they are – something the client also saw as critical for developing and embedding a successful coaching culture.

In response to customer demand, the REACH© Coaching Conversation Model was born. The REACH© acronym stands for Rapport, Explore, Action, Clarify and Honour.

The REACH© Coaching Conversation Model

Rapport Building rapport is essential to get coachees engaged and in the space of trusting and opening up, prior to gaining agreement on what a successful coaching conversation topic or outcome would be.
Explore Most of the conversation is questioning and exploring the topic at deeper and deeper levels. Various tools and techniques can be applied to access the sub conscious. The key to quality answers is asking quality questions that are solution oriented and focused on possibilities not problems.
Action An effective coaching conversation leads to action steps that are stated as SMART goals which can be measured and monitored.
Clarify Clarifying the value in achieving the outcome cements the importance of realising each goal and builds the desire to make it happen.
Honour Reflecting on the value of the coaching conversation and authentically validating and honouring the coachee means they leave the session feeling good about who they are and believing they can achieve their goals.

Coaching for a greater return on intelligence

To become a skilled coach requires training and practice. REACH is now the core of a Diploma in Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring offered by Fire Up Coaching which is endorsed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the body taking the lead in defining coaching and setting professional and ethical standards for coaches.

The proof is in – it is no longer just about return on investment but return on intelligence and coaching is a great method for fostering that emotionally, socially and mentally.

Next Steps:

Please contact me if you’d like to work with a Peak Performance Coach or Mentor, discuss whether the Fire Up Diploma is right for you, or read the full article Why REACH is the new GROW in Coaching in Spark Magazine.

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Are you planning to fail in 2017?

Annual strategic plans can fail to deliver the intended outcomes and in hindsight bear little resemblance to the year that plays out.  If you’re going into planning mode for 2017, here are some useful tips and tools from my colleague Phillip Ralph, that might help you take a fresh look at your approach to planning and positively impact on your success in the year ahead.

In Getting Ready for the Planning Season – Part 1, Ralph talks about creating a “collective ambition” that takes into account the key elements required to achieve and sustain excellence. He also discusses the important concept of organisational health or what McKinsey have defined as “the ability of an organisation to align, execute and renew itself faster than the competition so that it can sustain exceptional performance over time.”

From Getting Ready for the Planning Season – Part 2 I particularly like the Team Charter Canvas pictured below which helps leaders answer the “why, how and what” for their team. It’s a simple and versatile framework that can be used to assess the current state, identify priority areas and stimulate conversation that leads to new learning and new possibilities.

Team Charter Canvas

Team Charter Canvas

 

No matter how robust the plan, the biggest challenge lies in its execution. For more ideas on how to improve your planning and implementation efforts contact Phillip Ralph on 1300 100 857 or email: support@theleadershipsphere.com.au.

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How to Build a Customer-Centric Culture

With culture firmly back on the agenda for business leaders I thought I’d share our 10 steps for driving customer-centric culture change.

You can sum it up with 10 key ‘C’s':

1. Lead the CHANGE
2. CLARITY of purpose
3. CONTEXT for change
4. CONFIDENCE to be the difference
5. COMPETENCE to create value
6. COMMUNICATE to engage
7. COACH for performance
8. COMMIT and sustain
9. COLLABORATE to unite
10. CONTINUOUSLY improve

For more commentary, here’s the full article “How to build a customer-centric culture.”

Contact me if you’d like your organisation to be less ordinary!

 

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Beat the Cookie Cutter Approach – the advantages of small business vs big business

Check out “Beat the Cookie Cutter Approach” in May’s edition of Acuity Magazine – Australia and New Zealand’s business magazine of the year.

cookie cutter

The article highlights advantages that small businesses claim over big businesses when it comes to their people and their customers. My contribution on P44 tries to balance the equation by outlining some of the ways that senior executives in larger organisations are working to counter many of these advantages through more flexible work, professional development and community involvement.

“Whatever the size of the organisation, business comes down to people interacting with people and small business does not have the monopoly on great people.”

What are your thoughts on the advantages small businesses offer their people and customers over big businesses and vice-versa?

 

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Address some of the biggest M&A integration issues

Peak Performance has been involved in some great M&A success stories recently but too often mergers and acquisitions fail to live up to expectations. My latest article on P17 in Spark Magazine addresses M&A Culture, Communication and Customer integration issues. Check it out – Linley Watson Spark Magazine Article Feb 20.

What has been your best and worst experience of culture integration in an M&A situation?

 

 

 

 

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Culture is King again!

Culture assessment is high on the corporate agenda again. Growth-focused leaders want to understand the impact their culture is having on performance and what they can do to improve.

There’s a fantastic resource from Barrett Values Centre – “Transforming Culture in Larger Organisations” that introduces key concepts and learnings about transforming culture in organisations with more than 1000 people. It includes three international case studies, insightful questions to reflect on and some useful activities that you can apply in your organisation.

Authors Eneroth and Munday make the distinction between culture change and culture transformation and highlight several key factors for success, which are relevant for organisations of any size including:

  • There is no one “right” or model organisational culture – you have to develop the right culture for your organisation, one that supports your strategic ambitions.
  • Organisations don’t change; people do. Cultural transformation starts with self-aware and authentic leaders who listen to their people.
  • What you measure, you can manage – measuring culture over time will enable you to track the impact of initiatives and adjust your course as required.

Developing culture is too important to be left to chance. Here are some actions you can take to create a high performing culture:

  • Conduct a values assessment to understand your current and desired future culture
  • Share the results and invite continuous dialogue about your culture and values
  • Prioritise key focus values that embed strengths and address issues
  • Define and explore key values and the associated behaviours that you want to reinforce
  • Create a culture development plan that supports your vision and mission and aligns with your strategy
  • Live the values, recognise and reward those attitudes and behaviours that will help grow your desired culture
  • Continue to measure and track progress
  • Nudge and nurture your culture in order to transform over time

If you want some ideas and tools to help transform your culture, read the article, visit Barrett Values Centre website  for more useful resources or send me an email – linley@peakperformance.com.au.

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