Has your company been sold?

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“The entourage sweeps like a victorious occupying army. And no one is sure if they have come to lead us or to loot us.  Time stands still, we are anxious, weary, or confused all at once. We had lived comfortably and sheltered lives. We had forgotten how small and powerless we really are. Now we are reminded how easily anyone can be bought or sold.”

You are probably no different from anyone else. You have been divested from the portfolio. Now you are a redundancy and a cost, nameless and expendable. With one handshake they wiped away what you have been working towards and you are left asking yourself if you still have a place here.

I have had the displeasure of being caught up in a Merger and Acquisition shortened to M & A, twice in my career. Yes, I figure it doesn’t sound like a lot of times really, but it could be a really crazy period marked by confusion, anxiety, rumors and a lot of misinformation. There is often a lot of misinformation. Because information is passed from one person to the others and colored by fear and misconception. Even the new owners won’t tell you anything, turning the silence and uncertainty into an even maddening confusion.

For example, each time the leaders address the team, their body language is subjected to the most critical court of partial judges, even their actions and inactions are Interpreted in multiple dimensions and conclusions reached unfairly.

One thing is certain, it could easily be the worst period in anyone’s career. No one knows how it would turn out.

I also think that you are predisposed to experiencing an M&A if you have stayed pretty long at an organization. There is nothing that can prepare you for what to expect. Absolutely nothing. There are a host of other factors that can predispose your company to a buy-out or merger, but this is not the objective of this post.

I recollect that the first time I got wind of the impending sale of the Oil and gas downstream company I had worked with, was four years after I joined and two years before the deal was consummated. Gripped with confusion, I went online surfing through countless websites, reading through every piece of article I found in hope that I would find anything that could assuage my fear.

What I found that year (2014) that I had the pleasure of writing down in one of my journals would form the crux of this post.

When rumors start to fly around that your company is up for acquisition, seemingly out of nowhere, then it is very likely to be true.

Here is what often happens afterwards and the facts that you must be ready to face?

1, Once the papers (agreement) are signed, all bets are off. It is very likely that you will not get wind of the official sign-off until it is done. Many times, no one will confirm the acquisition until the agreement is signed.

2, It is very possible also that the former owners (your current bosses) may have established contractual terms for keeping on a certain number of employees with unique skillset or specific individuals in order to sustain business continuity.

This I can attest to firsthand. During the first acquisition I experienced, the HR had compiled a list of employees that had unique skillset and met certain criteria to ensure a smooth transition into a memo which unfortunately leaked and became an embarrassment to the leadership at the time. I was surprised to find my name on the list that year. Pleasantly so.

3, In many cases, in order to buy time, management will reassure their employees that they are safe and that no significant reductions are planned. Your bosses will hold townhall meetings and offer empty concessions. Their words are measured and positive as they seek a right balance of hope and ambiguity. They will speak confidently about the acquisition and make promises without batting an eyelid that no one would lose their jobs and that the acquisition is for the better. Unfortunately, all too often these promises are broken and it’s not entirely their fault.

4, Hiring freezes are common in any sort of take-over and employees too often assume extra duties. It may behoove the company to keep you around until the dust settles before showing you the door.

5; New owners may choose to eliminate or duplicate positions or entire department based on their vision for the company. There is absolutely nothing you can do about this. Unless you work in the acquiring company, the new owners can do as they please.

6; The bottom-line is this – There is no guarantee that your job is safe, regardless of your performance or seniority after a company sells. Prepare to start job hunting.

7, It is important to note that if new owners must conduct a mass layoff, they are obliged to give some notice. Whilst the first casualty of a merger and acquisition are often in the executive cadre, a mass lay-off may happen a few months down the line and the new owners are obliged to give notice after engagement with the union (if you are lucky to be in one).

8, If you have a counterpart in the other organization who is doing the exact same job, then you know it will be time for one of you to go. This happens a lot of the acquiring company is a competitor in the industry. Most times, the preference is to keep the acquiring organizations team and only seek for the roles that the organization lacks.

9, If your company is being acquired, it is in your best interest to update your resume and send out feelers to members in your career network. Feeling safe and complacent could cost you a jump start on a new job search. You simply cannot be overconfident or believe in some assurance offered by your current bosses. This leads to the next tip.

10, Don’t rely on your boss to give you the straight dope. Your boss might be out of the loop and might even be tagged for the first round of layoffs. During this period, everyone is fighting their own demons. The all man for himself scenario. Your bosses may give off false confidence to calm you down, but deep down they are worried sick about their future.

11, There is a big chance that you might be given the opportunity to share ideas right off the bat, because frequently, employees from the bought-out company are asked to re-apply and re-interview for the same positions they currently hold. This could even feel embarrassing sometimes. But if you get the chance to prove your worth and how valuable you are to the business, then this chance is all you ‘ve got.

12, It is common for most employees to cocoon when there is a buy-out, maybe because they are afraid that if they are visible, the company will decide they are expendable. This doesn’t often auger well for anybody. Best advice; just do your thing like you would have when there was no pending M&A.

13, In a merger of two large competitors, one company name will survive while the other disappears. This was the case with the second acquisition I experienced. At that point we lost our identity completely.


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7 thoughts on “Has your company been sold?”

  1. This is a very brilliant compilation and a great read, had very similar experiences and this just how it plays out.

  2. Thanks so much for all the tips.
    A man that is born of woman is full of many troubles says the Bible. I will also want to advise that one should not put all his eggs in a basket. You must plan for eventuality. The world is full of uncertainties and fragile. Start planning what to do as soon as you get a good job., save for the future or invest in stocks or other business to fall back to when adversity shows up. People do a lot of things in difficult times such taking their own lives, going into 419, or even developing high blood pressures and so on.
    Trusting God in times of adversity is the best. My God shall supply all your needs.

  3. Your thoughts are quite insightful and thought provoking. A guide on how to navigate the murky water during such times. My 2014 M& A experience comes to light as I read through your journal. I couldn’t agree any less.

  4. Thanks so much for this piece sir. Good head up and peep into what the market world looks like for the young school leavers

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