View from the Trenches: Your Ego vs. Your Success

"Real Life" Success Stories, Best Practices & Case Studies

This is an individual's success story, but it has strong implications for anyone whose company is acquired by someone else.
When I was in retail we acquired another retail chain. As is normal in these types of acquisitions, there was a duplication of management at the corporate level. We offered their Vice President of Marketing the number two slot in Marketing for the combined business and prepared a severance package for his Director of Marketing. The Marketing VP turned our offer down for good reasons (did not want to relocate with kids in high school and a wife with a good job). We then offered his job to the Director who snatched it up. He quickly demonstrated his skills, had a positive attitude and added value whenever he could. A few months later, our VP of Marketing left the company and who was the natural successor?  You guessed it. The new VP became a top executive until he retired 15 years later (as Senior VP of a company now four times larger).
The lesson learned is that, in spite of all the fears, concerns, and uncertainty one faces as a “vulnerable employee” of a newly acquired company, you can give up, have a chip on your shoulder and mourn the loss of your comfort zone. Or, you can take a positive attitude, demonstrate high value during the pre-close period and build your personal business case.
Too many times I have had to coach key individuals from the acquired company to play things out. Don't let a bad attitude get in the way of a great skill set that this acquiring company needs. You can always quit until you quit.... don't react too fast and miss an exciting opportunity whether short term or long term.
The last point I will make here is don't let your emotions get in the way.... especially over a change in job title. This is probably the #1 emotional issue I have seen. My sage advice as an old guy who been through this multiple times is Get Over It!  Accept the fact that while you were an SVP of a $50 million company the reality is that this is a Director level job in a $1 billion dollar company. You are getting the same pay, maybe better benefits and certainly a greater opportunity for professional development and job promotion. If you are as good as you think you are, you now stand on a much bigger platform. Make the most of it!
Submitted by Jack Prouty, President of the M&A Leadership Council