Those two years have passed quickly, with the technology and the outstanding development team in Lyon, France, quickly becoming a natural and important part of Tech Soft 3D. We’re forever changed.
For large companies who make frequent acquisitions, this may seem unremarkable. However, this is our first. So for us it is remarkable – a bit like seeing your first child walk.
As I thought about the two-year anniversary, I realized that you almost never hear an honest accounting of how expectations about an acquisition stack up to reality. Industry analysts sometimes comment ex post facto whether a particular acquisition had the expected impact − but rarely are the company themselves forthcoming about how they feel in retrospect. I’m not sure why that is, but I figured I would break that pattern by giving an honest retrospective of how it all went.
Before I delve into the details, I can say two things up front: we learned a LOT, and after two years, we’re feeling great about our decision.
So, what did we learn?
• Avoid or eliminate anything that gets in the way of building a new bond. If you have anyone who doesn’t want to be part of the acquisition, part ways as quickly as possible. It’s extremely important to help your team build a new and positive identity as part of your organization. We even moved offices specifically to make a clean break with the past and start anew.
• The quality of your workforce trumps all. French employment law is very different from the U.S. – more bureaucratic and time-intensive to set up and maintain a business than in the U.S. But if you have a great team, (which we do,) it’s a non-factor.
• Beware of Stereotypes. They’re usually wrong. Forget talk of business-crippling labor laws and 35-hour work weeks. The people that make up our Lyon team are as committed as anyone we know or have ever met.
• Be patient. Introducing a new culture takes time. It takes at least 12 -18 months for a new team to acclimate to a new company mission and values, but if you have a strong culture and a clear mission, good people will align.
• Send an emissary. Give a key member of company leadership a chance to live and work with the new team, and spread corporate culture. If you have someone who is willing to uproot their family to help the new team connect as an integral part of the whole, thank him profusely and lavish him with free beer whenever you see him (thanks, Gavin). Without this, the team may end up functioning like a remote, unconnected R&D office – far from ideal and not the way to build a truly global, integrated company.
• Stay connected. Holding lots of meetings involving people 9 times zone away from you is a challenge. But the value of new perspectives and fresh ideas to the company is invaluable – so make it work. Invest in good Internet connections so that you can use video as often as possible. Also don’t be afraid to spend some travel dollars so your team can get to know one another in person. Business is about relationships, so start building them right away.
• Listen and Learn. When you add a new group of people to your organization, it’s not only an opportunity to teach, it’s an opportunity to learn. To learn, you have to listen. And to have anything to listen to, you have to ask questions. So right way, start asking questions and paying attention to answers. Challenge the new group to challenge your status quo. This is a unique chance to get fresh perspectives on your company, products and strategy from smart people looking at you with clear eyes. Don’t waste the opportunity.
My next blog will assess how our expectations stacked up against reality.