Talk it through Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008

When you talk about mergers, it’s easy to focus on lofty topics like strategy, high finance and intellectual property. After experiencing a merger ourselves, we learned those things are important, but true success comes from communication and trust — subjects you don’t hear discussed in the boardroom.

On Jan. 1, our company, Lazorpoint LLC, merged with Caxton Growth Partners. People often make dating-marriage analogies when talking about mergers, and that analogy applied to us. We had worked together for some time and shared the same values. We’re a technology consulting firm that had been a Weatherhead 100 winner, had experienced tremendous revenue growth, and had engaged Caxton to help us grow faster and find the best talent.

As we worked together, we realized that joining forces would create a powerful combination for our clients.

We began planning for the obvious operational issues — accounting, invoicing, client service, human resources — but soon noticed that our 28 employees were more preoccupied with mundane procedural issues and routine daily questions. That’s when we learned that you can’t communicate enough when going through a merger. We had team meetings, regular e-mails, memos, everything you could think of, but it still wasn’t enough.

We realized we had to treat internal company communications no differently than you approach advertising — it requires repetition before it becomes effective. People hear and absorb messages differently; while one person gets it the first time, others need to hear it repeated in different contexts before they understand.

Our second lesson was about trust. Even though we shared values and target markets, we found we approached many things differently, even things that seemed as simple as running a meeting.

So how do two organizations come together to form a single entity? You have to spend a lot of time together. You can’t identify all your issues in advance, and you have to accept that disagreements and frustration will occur.

But just because someone leaves the toothpaste cap off in a marriage doesn’t mean the marriage is over. We worked through it, put the cap back on and trusted our colleagues to focus on the right things to grow the business and serve our clients.

DAVID LAZOR is CEO of Lazorpoint LLC (www.lazorpoint.com) and a member of the Cleveland Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (www.eonetwork.org), an international organization of business owners dedicated to helping each other learn and grow.