Mergers: A client’s view Featured

10:07am EDT July 22, 2002

When news of the 1995 acquisition of Columbus-based McElroy-Minister Co. by Indianapolis-based Acordia Inc. reached Franklin International, one of McElroy’s longtime clients, the usual questions arose: Would service be interrupted? What changes might result?

John Markham, senior vice president of human resources at Franklin, a South Side adhesive-products manufacturer, says the company’s first call was to Tom Hadley, senior vice president at McElroy.

“Tom reassured us that they would take care of issues, and it would basically be business as usual,” Markham says.

The long-lasting business relationship between the two executives was important in easing Markham’s worries.

“It’s especially important in a relationship business—and I think all customer relationships come down to personal relationships—that you just respect the customer as a person and communicate with them,” Hadley says. “They’d expect that from you, and you’d expect that if they were merging.”

Hadley has been on the other side as well. He’s fielded calls from clients when insurance companies merge.

“We are, in effect, buying insurance for all of our clients. Insurance companies are going through all kinds of mergers, so we deal with this very frequently—for example, United HealthCare Corp. [and] Humana Inc. But I can go back and name about 20 other deals,” he says.

When the Acordia/McElroy-Minister merger was final, Hadley sent a copy of the news announcement and a letter to his clients explaining the situation.

“It was surprisingly quiet,” he says. “The biggest question from all of our clients [was], ‘Who’s going to handle my account and is it still going to be you?’ When I said, ‘Yes,’ that was all they needed to hear.”

On Franklin’s end, the merger brought few hassles but many questions from the 475 employees covered under McElroy’s insurance plan, Markham says.

“Basically the same thing Tom did with us is what we did with our employees,” Markham says. “Through internal communication, we tried to reassure them they probably would not see any difference in the services they’re provided.”