Acquisitions involve people, culture, operations and product, which all need to be assessed, but business leaders shouldn’t forget the systems. Customers need a platform to order the product.
In any case, Santos says Dümmen Orange’s CEO Biense Visser often reminds his employees to never fall in love with a deal, which can cloud judgment. A loss of objectivity can lead to missed details and negative consequences after the fact.
Today, Dümmen Orange, North America, goes through an interim period where it doesn’t merge the existing platform until there’s a full shift. Otherwise it dilutes the IT department’s focus and, Santos says, “you end up doing a lot more firefighting than is worth your while.”
The IT team is also being divided to avoid shifting priorities. One group will focus on acquisitions and the other will attend to the day to day.
Well-rounded and flexible
The first set of acquisitions may have looked seamless, but Santos says they still did a lot of troubleshooting with fires left and right. Being more systematic in how a company is integrated enables Dümmen Orange to slide that acquisition into the organization, without as many surprises popping up after the fact.
“Don’t get me wrong; there still are (surprises), inevitably, just not quite as many,” she says.
Dümmen Orange also learned to increase its upfront due diligence, bringing in multidisciplinary teams to not only assess where the target company stands, but also ask questions about integration.
While the due diligence can’t involve too many because it’s confidential, Santos says if the acquisition and integration teams are too small or imbalanced in terms of perspectives, or departments, things get missed.
“With each stage, we found that having a more well-rounded team has enabled us to move to more of a proactive approach to an acquisition and integration, rather than a reactive approach,” she says.
Setting realistic integration timelines is essential, but it’s still a fluid process.
“No two are the same, but it’s important to not be too restrictive on the integration approach because change is inevitable as the process goes through, and there needs to be some flexibility in the strategy to be able to manage that,” Santos says.
It’s also helpful to come together after a company has been integrated to evaluate what went wrong, how those challenges were solved and what should be changed and bankrolled into the next set of acquisitions.
“You may make a mistake once, but you won’t make it twice,” she says.