Show, Don’t Tell: Culture is Key for Mergers to Succeed

January 7th, 2016 Vern Oakley

Do you ever find old work you did and say to yourself, “Wow that was good – I should use that again!” Well here it comes – again – but with more texture and experience.

Several years ago, I was asked to do a workshop for Inc. Magazine on mergers and acquisitions. In a prior life, I was responsible for all mergers-and-acquisition integration activity for a major financial institution. Here’s one of the most important slides I presented:

1. Culture
2. Culture
3. Culture
4. Mismatch in Priority
5. Mismatch in Management Style & Organization/Maturity/Size
6. Failure to Define Measurements and Plans
7. Greed
8. Failure to Consider Regulatory Impacts
9. Failure of One Partner to Restructure/Resource Appropriately
10. Outside Market Forces
11. Valuation
12. Process

The participants got the message. I packed the presentation with countless stories of every mistake I had made, including the audience favorite: I described how I had orchestrated a conference call with the two CEOs, with every employee listening as they announced the deal and presented a vision to over 10,000 listeners. When that call was over, I shared that I dropped my head into my hands in front of my CEO and confessed, “That was just awful!” I used only video after that day.

The workshop audience also laughed when I talked about the time I had to learn the hard way, as the merger-integration guy, that all of sudden, I was in charge of culture! So teaching the message of communication and negotiating with executive management, investment bankers, HR departments, shareholder relations departments, marketing departments, ad agencies, PR agencies and other consultants I never heard of was a trial by fire and nearly a mortal-wound experience. In the end, and after many errors, I developed my own model.

1. Have executive management communicate a vision of desired behaviors.
2. Be sure to promote and demonstrate executive and senior management practicing the behaviors as examples/models.
3. Promote and demonstrate the same as practiced by employees from all levels of the organization.

The only way I could think to do this was video. I have enjoyed partnering with outstanding video production firms who have been invaluable in assisting me by:

– Consolidating the messaging to the satisfaction of all the corporate stakeholders.
– Introducing creative concepts that enhanced the messaging.
– Providing masterful coaching and directing of management and personnel to make everyone look good and enjoy the process. annual review video to celebrate the merger.

When Coty Inc. was preparing for its IPO, it needed to present the company in a way that aligned with its new ethos. Tribe crafted nine leadership portraits of Coty’s senior management (to be showcased on its newly revamped website) that reflected the corporate culture of “Faster. Further. Freer.”

Here are three of the nine the portraits:
Michele Scannavini 
Ralph Macchio 
Catia Cesari

As Watson became Actavis, then Allergan and now Pfizer, Tribe produced several videos to promote culture for the new company.

Tribe produced this video for the day-one launch of the merged Watson Pharmaceutical + Actavis global enterprise. The video humanizes the transition and shows that because the companies merged, they’re twice as strong.

Following the merger with Actavis, Allergan challenged us to produce a culture video to excite its workforce. We created an idea that played on the new logo and asked employees to share what being bold means to them.

Soon we will be able to share the vision and video for the Allergan/Pfizer merger, too!

Culture may be the top priority for success in mergers and acquisitions. Video greatly enhances the forging of a blended culture. Pick a great partner with experience.