Four ways to optimize company culture during an acquisition

Business acquisitions occur for a variety of reasons, and some of those acquisitions will result in an integration between two companies. When running one of these integrations, company culture should be one of the most important considerations for senior management.

Culture is the glue that binds a business together, so it’s crucially important for leaders to recognize it, respect it and support it. Here’s how:

Honor both organizations’ legacies

History and legacy are two driving forces behind a company’s culture. They work in tandem to create an organizational identity, which helps team members bond and creates a starting point for them to explain – and sell – your product or service.

As a business leader, understand the similarities and differences between the two cultures by identifying relevant history. Then, find ways to weave these histories into the narrative you’ve created behind the deal.

This will help unite your team members behind one central narrative that incorporates both legacies.

Related: Negotiating in good faith 

Communicate the vision and the “why” behind the acquisition

Keeping all stakeholders informed is crucial when building trust during an integration. Without this trust, an organization’s culture will quickly begin to fall apart. The acquiring business should release detailed and frequent communications explaining the strategy behind their decisions.

Every smart acquisition also has a long-term vision. Communicate this vision frequently and involve your team members in creating the narrative that supports it.

One mark of a successful acquisition is when team members tell this narrative to colleagues, friends, family and clients when asked about the integration. Their inclusion will help keep the culture intact.

Schedule one-on-ones with team members at all levels

Another good practice for the acquiring team is to meet with individuals from all levels of the organization and check in on how they’re feeling about the integration. This is an opportunity for leaders to conduct a deep dive into the company culture they’re seeking to steward throughout the integration process.

In these interviews, the acquirer should be willing to go deep on multiple topics, such as coworker relationships, performance measurement and general organizational housekeeping. They can also ask about any fears the team members have regarding the acquisition to either address them on the spot or take them back to upper management and determine a solution.

These touch points are invaluable for the acquisition’s health because they will help reveal any inhibitors among the employee base that need to be addressed, as well as any cultural incongruencies that must be solved for.

Seek to retain star players

The best acquisitions reward skilled team members by bringing them into the process and allowing them to assist with, or at least share input on, key decisions.

Star players can be at any level of the organization. They could be highly successful salespeople or deeply embedded cultural leaders. Often, these will be legacy individuals whose buy-in is critical to the integration’s success.

You should strive to support these star players so their work goes undisturbed throughout the process. From both a cultural and production standpoint, these individuals are some of the most valuable people to retain after an acquisition.

The takeaway

Preserving company culture during an acquisition demands strategic foresight and execution. By honoring both organization’s legacies, having a compelling vision, engaging in meaningful one-on-one conversation and retaining key talent, leaders can safeguard their cultural integrity.

For senior executives, prioritizing these steps is crucial not only in maintaining cultural cohesion but also in maximizing the long-term value of their deal.

To learn more, contact Sean Curley at (336) 217-9125 or