The “Finish Line” is Only the Beginning: How to Make Sure Your Exit or Acquisition is as Successful as Possible
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a big moment.
If you’re a startup founder, early employee, or even an investor, your “exit” is the major milestone moment you’re pushing for, likely from day one.
If you’re a company that’s acquiring talent and product, getting a deal across the goal line is a major accomplishment.
And you’re right to feel that way. No matter what side of the deal you’re on, executing a deal that will take a product to the next level and support the goals of the larger organization should be celebrated. All the hard work and risk that the founding team and investors have taken paid off!
But it’s not the finish line.
It’s the end of one (critical) chapter and the start of a new one. This new chapter is a hard one in its own right and it’s important to view it as such.
Getting that product and team integrated is hard for several reasons. You have an incoming (and tired) team from the startup pairing up with your existing team that is working on a ton of other things. You have competing priorities: the incoming team naturally wants to preserve the hard work they’ve done on their product, while your team naturally prefers their existing systems and ways of doing things. Culturally, you’re trying to blend different ways of working together, thinking about a problem, and engaging one another on a day-in and day-out basis.
At Tensure, we’ve seen acquisitions and the integrations that follow be incredibly successful (and, in some cases, incredibly painful.)
Here are three ways to make this new chapter successful:
1. Set the Vision Early, Remind Your Teams Often
Vision for the “why” and what’s possible post-acquisition may seem like the “fluffy” stuff, but it’s crucial if you want your teams to integrate this new product well. When we partner with clients on integration projects, we make sure one of the first things done is defining the future vision: what will success look like when this integration is complete, and why is it worth it?
By defining this early and reminding your collective teams of it often, you’ll align everyone around a common vision. Now, instead of being unsure why they’re working so hard on this integration in the first place or fighting for their own personal preferences, your teams can recall the vision and “why” when uncertainty or disagreement arises and make choices that explicitly support that common goal.
2. Make Architecture Decisions in Advance
A big question to answer before you even roll out the vision is to determine how you’ll handle the architectural requirements of integrating a new product. For example, are you re-platforming the incoming product onto your systems? Or are they remaining separate? If they’re remaining separate, for how long? (If your answer is “forever,” I have some stories for you…)
At Tensure, we staff a cloud architect on most of our integration and migration projects for this exact reason. Integrating new tech is not just “add this to that.” It’s more like, “Let’s reimagine this entire system so it can house the things it needs to house and do the things it needs to do.”
3. Get the Help You Need
Even a small, simple product takes time and a whole team of professionals to integrate.
Say you’re acquiring a startup – remember, that team is TIRED. This acquisition was their finish line, and they might not have the energy to handle an integration. Not to mention the fact that they’ve lived and breathed their product for years. They don’t know–or maybe don’t really care–about your software environment, and they will probably be protective of the thing they’ve spent years making.
Plus, your team already has stuff to work on. That means the work of integration is extra work on top of the normal operations of your business. To protect your investment, you’ll likely need to bring on additional talent, which requires additional budget, in order to integrate the new product well.
If you’re the founder whose startup is being acquired, you need this integration to be successful as much as, if not more than, the acquiring company. If the integration is successful, four things are likely to happen:
- it will add credibility to your track record
- serve as a launch pad for your next venture
- create significant goodwill with the acquiring company and it’s leadership for the future
- maximize earnout compensation tied to a successful integration.
It is wise to advocate for the extra support you and your team might need to integrate the product successfully.
Let Tensure Help You Bridge the Finish Line to a New Beginning
Whether you’re exiting or acquiring, the truth is that a closed deal is a huge accomplishment, but it’s far from the finish line. The hard work of successful integration of both team and product requires skillful guidance, as does opening the door for your next project.
At Tensure, our commitment is to operate as your guide along the M&A journey. If you’re an early-stage startup, we’ll help ensure you’re on the right path for your future exit. If you’re evaluating a deal, we can support both sides to mitigate risks with integration and licensing. Post-acquisition, we bridge the two teams and facilitate a smooth transition.
Learn more about our work at tensure.io.