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The company you work for has been acquired, now what?

May 29th, 2024

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@omilaev?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Igor Omilaev</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/a-group-of-blue-plastic-figures-sitting-in-an-office-LdJLgZ0rrvA?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

I'm writing about this from the benefit of hindsight, but I look back on the very chaotic period of my career right after Taxi for Email was acquired twice in one week, first by SparkPost, and then MessageBird acquired SparkPost. I was really fortunate to move under a very supportive, transparent and great manager but I wanted to write down some tips based on how I *fairly* successfully navigated a double acquisition.

Tip #1: Don't panic

It can be very easy to panic, your entire work life shifted direction after an all hands or company wide email. Take a breath, take 30 mins or so away from your emails and clear your head. The next few weeks after this are key to making a good impression, and setting yourself up for success in the new organisation.

Tip #2: Get to know your new manager

When you start a new job, you get some time to onboard to your new role and team, and as a part of that learn how your manager works. This doesn't always happen during acquisitions, there's a lot of change happening across the company, and it's also business as usual for your customers.

When I read Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker (article, book(£ aff)) my biggest takeaway was that the best way to make yourself successful in the workplace was to know 1) what your strengths are and 2) how your manager best receives information.

According to Drucker managing your manager effectively involves understanding their working style and goals, communicating proactively, aligning with their preferences, building trust and respect, supporting their success, seeking and offering feedback, and managing conflicts constructively. By taking responsibility for this relationship, you can create a more productive and harmonious working environment, ultimately helping you to form a killer partnership with you manager. Drucker talks a lot about how this can help create an environment that contributes to both your success and your manager's success.

Tip #3: Build your internal network

When you join a new company, you get a period of onboarding where you get time to figure out how you work with everyone, how to navigate processes, and how to work around any pre-existing politics (they always exist, even in companies that say they don't have any). When you're acquired, you don't get this time.

One of the things that SparkPost did really well was to set up lots of opportunities to network with people outside of my direct team. We had a bunch of optional coffee chats spread out across the day to account for time zone differences, and we were randomly assigned into groups. Signing up for these proved so valuable for down the line - 3 people that I met in these sessions ended up working directly with me ~6 months later.

Knowing who to ask for help, and who to collaborate with in a new organisation can massively accelerate your growth. Throwing yourself into every opportunity to network is the first step, and switching your mindset to the one that comes with a new job will help you no end.

Tip #4: Forget "the old way" you did things

After an acquisition your processes will 99% of the time have to change and adapt to fit in with the new team's. The team you\re amalgamating into is likely going to be much bigger, have established processes, and likely have a different tech stack. Flexibility here helps to smooth the transition, and make everyone work more smoothly.

This is the biggest challenge of all - people hate change, especially when it is forced upon them, so it's also vital for the acquiring organisation to have patience with the new team.

From a personal perspective, it's super important to let go of your old culture, processes and ways of working. Throwing myself into the new way made me 1) learn a whole load of new stuff really quickly and 2) settle into the new organisation as seamlessly as possible.

My biggest takeaway?

I found that building my internal network gave me a huge leg up into the new team, and I built lifelong connections and an internal network which helped me hugely during my time at SparkPost/MessageBird. 10/10 would do it again during my next acquistion!

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© Ben Hubbard 2023