Three Secrets to Surviving Acquisitions – Even If the Vibes are not Immaculate

We’ve all been there.

Leadership is excitedly running around because this is the acquisition that’s going to change the course of human history. It’s going to triple our portfolio of properties, get us to revenue targets in half the time, or get rid of the competition or whatever.

And you’re just a mid-level or senior leader with kids to feed and bills to pay trying to figure out how to survive this.

Will I, my role, my team, or my department be redundant or obsolete?

Here are 3 secrets to keep you competitive and top of mind even if you’re not completely sure you’re on board with everything (see below).

[1] Create a 90-day Plan

Everyone has a new job after a merger or acquisition.

You have to get on board with everything.

There will be a large number of new:

  • Unfamiliar business situations
  • Promotions/Demotions/Change in Roles
  • Moving from a functional to a cross-functional role or vice versa
  • Relocations
  • Processes, Systems, Tools
  • Reporting structures (restructuring or re-orgs)
  • Shifts in Mindset, Attitudes, Beliefs, & Culture
  • Compensation and Benefits

Most people don’t realize this until they’ve become so demoralized they want to jump ship.

Especially if your company is being acquired, there’s a strong chance that everything will change – sometimes in the course of just a few months.

“You don’t get a second time to make a first impression”

Will Rogers

Don’t stick to what you know. What worked before will probably not work now.

Jumping into the deep end without strategic direction because of a bias towards action will probably sink you faster than hitting an iceberg at sea.

Take a step back and (BREATHE) observe how things are unfolding and approach this the way you would a new job at a brand new company.

How can you help?

Your boss? Your direct reports? Your peers? Your boss’ peers? The projects in-flight?

This is the only lens that really matters in the first 90 days.

Write out a 30, 60, 90 day set of ideas, goals, & actions and work to validate them immediately. [See number 3 on relationships].

Here’s a sample 90-day plan I used for myself in a previous role.

[2] Accelerate Learning

Deploy Change Management best practices.

After acquisitions, people have questions like:

  • Where do I need to report my time?
  • How do I get a feature request on the product roadmap?
  • How often can I deploy to production?
  • Why is this project being canceled?
  • Am I still getting my bonus this year?
  • Do I have to resubmit my approved vacation time?

Sometimes these answers are not finite.

In fact, maybe the better lens is more like – should our organization continue reporting time? Should teams have more autonomy around their product roadmaps? So on and so forth.

This is where Change Management can help companies through both a transitory state where processes, systems, and tools are more in flux until a desired operating state is reached.

The challenge is most companies think of this discipline as an afterthought – after attrition, or missing important business & revenue goals.

It’s my opinion that this should be part of the due diligence process before acquisition and part of the monetary investment being made. And if the investment is on the scale of billions, a change management office should exist as a partner to your project/program management office. A girl can dream. . .

Change management is not damage control. It’s a strategy to help you reach business goals, retain top talent, and protect company culture. It’ll help navigate changes and provide quick wins around:

  • What it successfully takes to get work done. You will be able to identify and communicate changes to products, services, tools, processes, and systems.
  • It’ll help people understand the cultural foundations of the new organization and what qualities are necessary to be successful.

[3] Relationships.Relationships.RELATIONSHIPS

At one point in my career, I received free mentorship from a Chief Information Officer of a Fortune 100 company.

She gave me the cheat code to succeed in corporate America.

50% of my job was to focus on building and maintaining relationships.

To help illustrate this point, think of your favorite royal court. I love a good period piece, so let’s look at The Other Boleyn Girl.

TLDR – Anne Boleyn became the queen of England and changed the course of history by influencing the King to break away from the Catholic Church.

True story.

While we may not be on our Megan Markle, it’s absolutely critical that you understand

  • how decisions are made
  • how power and influence work at the company
  • identify the most influential individuals and alliances post-acquisition
  • figure out whose support you will need and how you’ll get it

It really doesn’t matter how good you are at your job.


In a period of succession, it’s more important that the right people know you and like you.

The easiest way to do this is by being helpful (see your 90-day plan) – not only to your boss but to everyone who you come in contact with. Your teams, your boss’ peers, your direct reports, that random editor in the elevator, the third-party vendor your HR company uses, the executive assistants – whomever.

Be kind.

Be friendly.

Be helpful.

Be a good person.

What’s the best way to do this – quickly? I know my 100% remote friends will fight me on this, but the best way is to do this in person. You don’t have to start a hybrid or in-person working model, but face-to-face still goes a long way when distrust is in the air.

Plan an on-site visit. Schedule casual friendly conversations (interviews). Be genuinely interested & curious in your coworkers, their partners, their pets, their kids, and their hobbies. Find a way to weave in how they are handling the changes, what they would like to see, their pain points, and identify potential opportunities to help them.

Don’t forget to smile. (I tell myself this often because my face needs deliverance).

Do this over lunch, over coffee, over drinks, during power walks, in the hallway, or during scheduled 1:1 time.

And yes – you can do all of this remotely. It’s been my experience that it will take more time to form bonds and alliances though.

So will a week on-site kill you? Probably not. Pick a light week with no deadlines. You’ll find as people hear you’re in town, lots of folks will want to catch up – so plan for like 80% of your time to be in face-to-face conversations.

Introverts – pace yourselves, LOL.

Talk less. Listen more.

And remember that 90-day plan you wrote? Ask meaningful questions when appropriate to validate your plan. Adjust as you see fit.

Final Thoughts

You got this.

Change is never easy, but you can be successful.

Remember to always have a plan, be open to learning, and focus on relationships. Being the best product manager or having the cleanest code will not be what helps you survive during periods of uncertainty.

What are some ways you’ve navigated change? Hit me up in the comments below.

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