Six Tips for Life Post-M/A

After the ink has dried after a merger or acquisition of your home building firm, you'll want to make sure you cover all of your bases as far as transitioning your staff into a new setup.
By Jody Kahn Kline | January 31, 2007

After the ink has dried after a merger or acquisition, you'll want to make sure you cover all of your bases as far as transitioning your staff into a new setup. Keep the following in mind:

Retain the Team

This is probably the chief concern for principals, who are almost unanimously protective of the loyal teams they have assembled. The days of an acquirer walking in and firing the entire team are gone. Buyers have a real appreciation for the value of experienced human capital and want to retain talented managers and staff who know how things are done and why.

In reality, the principals will identify key people to retain, and they'll ask to sign employment agreements. One of the main reasons to acquire rather than start up a division is to avoid costly personnel mistakes — aptly called "idiot dues"— and the local team is the key to local market knowledge, connections and strategies. Several public and private buyers are justifiably proud of the high percentage of principals and senior managers who continue with their companies, often beyond the terms of the original management contracts.

Typically, a team from the buyer's human resources department arrives to explain the benefits to the new division. The benefits often meet or exceed what the seller was able to offer and may include opportunities to option or buy stock, plus expanded career possibilities and the opportunity to transfer geographically if required by transfer of a spouse. As most principals stay with the acquired division for one to five years, the team's reporting and day-to-day operations remain nearly unchanged.

Keep the Name-Change Straight

The name printed on the front door and in advertisements and on business cards will change to some degree. Some buyers will change over to the corporate name right away, while others tend to keep the locally recognized name, assuming it has marketing value, for some time. Be mindful to present the new name consistently.

Understand Accounting Changes

This function will experience the earliest and potentially most significant changes. The ability to quickly consolidate divisional results into a corporate picture is an absolute requirement for public buyers but is important to privates, too. In many cases, the buyer will send in a team to help convert the acquired division to the accounting and information system used at headquarters. New reporting deadlines will be in place, and the division controller assumes a dual reporting responsibility.

Share Resources

The largest home builders flex their muscles via national purchasing and rebate deals with suppliers — typically presented to as additional menu choices and not a forced diet. Other options might include the buyer's purchasing system and/or master scheduling software; successful floor plans; value engineering services; and expertise with new building products. Plus, the opportunity to exchange ideas and benchmark with other division managers can provide new insights.

Anticipate Decision-Making Strategies

Buyers want to participate in major decisions and significant expenditures, including land acquisitions, hiring key managers, geographic expansions or changes in strategic direction. Day-to-day decisions remain with the division.

Author Information
Jody Kahn Kline develops marketing materials for MPKA's seller clients as well as heads many assignments in which MPKA represents buyers, providing market research support and identifying and screening prospects.