No matter the size, when two firms or companies come together, there are going to be differing approaches. Since opening Agency Bel in 2001, I have supported a number of companies through this transition. One merger comes to mind, two architecture firms, one based in Somerville who specialized in schools and churches and the other based in Rhode Island who specialized in medical and manufacturing buildings. Both “speak” architecture, but the culture was dramatically disparate.
“Merging companies can be the right thing to do while still being incredibly emotional especially for the owners / founders. Laura was a wonderful facilitator during a naturally stressful process. She was able to balance our strong personalities while keeping mutual goals in site for all parties. Her solutions worked beautifully. She crafted strategies, messaging, and designs that our staffs could get behind and our customers followed suit! We cannot recommend Agency Bel more highly.” — EK, Architecture Firm Owner
Here’s how to handle rebrand planning and implementation in a way that promotes cultural integration and unity:
- Involve staff from both organizations in decision-making. Allow team members “from both sides of the aisle” to have a voice and a stake in how the new entity will operate moving forward. If they feel they are being heard, staff from both organizations can rally around the larger goal of deciding on the best workflows. Here, an independent third party can keep such a meeting from running off the tracks.
- Think long-term. The energy around rebranding tends to dissipate after the first days of a rebrand launch. Don’t make the mistake of being short-sighted. Many rebrands require two to three years to fully execute, and you likely still have much to do. You’ll need to maintain focus on operational points of integration well after the launch date. If you don’t, the rebrand may lose steam and the cultural unity you’ve set in motion could dissolve.
- Centralized oversight is key. For many M&As handles the rebrand through the planning and initial launch. You must have a strong, centralized marketing function to keep cultural integration (and the rebrand overall) top of mind. If not, the responsibilities will fall to people in functional areas who have other day-to-day priorities and your momentum will likely falter. Worse, decentralized marketing structures (which may be another way of describing a lack of cultural integration) may lead to inconsistencies in how the brand is presented. This is especially true when it comes to global entities.
- Harness the right tools. You need to use the right tools and manage the many operational changes that need to be deployed. These tools should help manage time, money, people, and communication, of course. Next, selecting and configuring the brand management system that best meets your organization’s needs is a big part of the puzzle.
- Consider hiring a neutral third party. A neutral third-party can be invaluable in helping the many individuals and departments involved in rebranding to navigate the many operational ramifications of an M&A and steer the course on cultural integration, too.
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