Setting Up Day One for Success

Day one in M&A is a critical juncture for both the acquiring company and the target company. This is the day when the deal is officially closed and the two companies become one entity. Day one involves a lot of planning and coordination between the two companies to ensure a smooth transition. In this episode, Chris Evans, former Head of CorpDev Integration at Amazon, discusses how to set up day one for success.

Setting Up Day One for Success

20 Mar
with 
Chris Evans
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Setting Up Day One for Success

Setting Up Day One for Success

“Integration is rarely groundbreaking. It’s a lot of small improvements that adds up to make a huge impact.” - Chris Evans

Day one in M&A is a critical juncture for both the acquiring company and the target company. This is the day when the deal is officially closed and the two companies become one entity. Day one involves a lot of planning and coordination between the two companies to ensure a smooth transition. In this episode, Chris Evans, former Head of Corporate Development Integration at Amazon, discusses how to set up day one for success.

special guests

Chris Evans
Experienced M&A Leader | ex-Head of CorpDev Integration at Amazon

Hosted by

Kison Patel

Episode Transcript

Phases of the deal

From an integration standpoint, it's critical to be involved early on in the process. My team would engage at the term sheet sign, and we would run the due diligence process. We would run it from soup to nuts. 

We would get the team together. We would prioritize and focus and drive the due diligence process, which is critical in deeply understanding the company. If you deeply understand the company and the people there, and the business sponsors and the acquiring business within Amazon, that sets you up best to be successful on the integration side.

Day one is really when that flips, so you work through diligence and the deal folks negotiating a transaction. And then you sign the deal, make the announcement, and then move from being two parties to one party. But you step into that timeframe having a deep understanding of the business. That's where you can really help. From that point onwards, it's working very closely together with the acquired company to set them up to be successful within Amazon.

Getting day one right

Getting day one right is obviously critical, as first impressions matter. This is a critical moment to build momentum. If you get things right, then it sets itself up. The integration is set out to be very positive.

You can also dig a big hole on that day as well so it's very critical, especially as it is a key day in acquired employees' lives. There are decisions that people make in their lives that take them on different forks. 

  • Do I take this job or not this job?
  • Should I move this to another city? 

An acquisition is a similar fork, but it is pushed on people. They didn't decide to be acquired. So, we are rolling out a huge amount of change to these employees, which none of them were asking for. And so, I take that incredibly seriously, and I want people to gain comfort on that day so that they are positive about the future and see the good stuff that can come.

You have to care deeply about the employee experience, and be super thoughtful about what their concerns are through that day because that day sets the momentum for the integration over the long term.

You want it to be memorable and set the tone in a positive direction instead of negative. There's a lot that happens on that day one, and there are many things that can go right and many things that can go wrong. 

But being a great integration manager means having a super detailed and strong plan and a cadence to the day, and you also have the time to deal with the inevitable challenges that crop up of which there will likely be a variety through any day one experience.

Day One and Announcement

Particularly at Amazon, you must be very careful using the term "day one" because every day is day one. We used to confuse ourselves quite frequently, but in general, I always thought of day one as really that transition, there's sort of a pre-phase and a post-phase. 

Day one is the first day you go from being two teams to a single team working together closely. Day one to me is the broad announcement day. It's the day that it goes from a very tightly held M&A project with a handful or dozens of people being aware to the time that it is known broadly across that company and potentially publicly as well. So it's that transition to being the day we can help, and work from there. 

Typically, I would see that soon after the deal sign. You might want to hold it until close for various reasons, but typically, once the deal is signed, you want to work together closely and even pre-close that work is planning, organizing, getting to know each other in more detail. 

You obviously can't implement until close, but it is important to get started on that work as soon as possible. Once a deal is signed, there is an increased leak risk so I would much prefer to lead the message.

I would want employees to hear about the acquisition from their CEO. I want them to be able to ask questions immediately and have any concerns addressed, which you lose if there is a press cycle on that acquisition. Typically, having the deal signed and then shortly thereafter, having a day one and announcement is important.

Ideally, internal and external announcements are done at the same time. There is a company all-hands and an all-employee meeting will be scheduled. An invite goes out maybe the evening before for the following morning, which naturally concerns people. 

People do have concerns when they see that come through, but it's a necessary evil. And then, let's say you set an employee announcement for 9:00 AM, the meeting starts, and you have all the employees there. And then, a press release or a blog posting is put up at precisely that time. And so, people are hearing about it from their leaders and people they trust.

As soon as a broad number of people are made aware of that acquisition, it will become public in some way, shape, or form, essentially quite quickly. Having a broad communication strategy both internally and externally, that is aligned is key. But the critical thing is for employees to hear it from their own leaders and to be able to engage with their leaders and with the acquiring company as soon as possible. 

Day One Activities

We're always cautious with the terms, and the difference between being signed and closed is obviously very important. Concepts like gun jumping or working too closely together post that announcement can be a tightrope to walk, and one needs to be very thoughtful.

The phrase "we have signed an agreement to acquire a company" is a typical message that would get used at that point. But when it comes to the actual day, in general, how I would like to do it is the night before there is a dinner or a social event with key leaders.

There are two sides to a negotiation. It can be contentious, so having an event where leaders can get together, both from the acquiring and acquired companies to get to know each other outside of a conference room to actually build some camaraderie is important because tomorrow morning, these people are going to be up on a stage together.

Employees notice camaraderie. They want to know if their CEO trusts this person on the stage. People are very conscious of their demeanor. They're conscious about any hesitancy between folks, so building that camaraderie between leaders before the big announcement is important.

And then, the day off. Another key group of folks are managers or not the company's highest level people, but people seen as leaders. Employees typically ask their managers questions, and they ask people they trust first.

Taking another group into the tent before the bigger announcement, providing them with messages, and giving them an understanding of how you see that playing out is important because if employees are sat there. They have questions, and their manager says he/she only just found out about this, and they don't know much about the deal, and if they go up the chain and get the same answer, that can be disconcerting to people. 

So again, if there is any way to take managers on the journey as well, that can be incredibly helpful. Once you've done that, having an all-company presentation and potentially a public statement as well is key.

The presentation that I used to make would say "The CEO would make the announcement to the employees." "We've signed an agreement to be acquired by Amazon" is what the person would say. Thankfully, everybody kind of knows who Amazon is, and so people have opinions, which is helpful.

There would be some applause or there would be excitement. But there was also a high amount of anxiousness. So there's anxiety that kicks in as well. And so the second slide was titled "That's great, but what does this mean for me?" That's where we hit upfront questions like:

  • Are people going to have a job? 
  • Will their manager change? 
  • Are there going to be any location changes? 
  • What do we expect from job changes? 
  • How will compensation and benefits change? 

In the vast majority of cases, we could say: Everyone keeps their job and we are going to build and grow and invest in this company. 

Once you hit the key themes of "what does this mean for me?" and try to address the key elements of anxiety  that are in people's heads, then you can feel the pressure in the room decrease. 

That's when people look at this and see if this could be a huge opportunity. And then people start moving from the negative. Because when people see the acquisition in the press, they hear about layoffs, cost synergies, whatever that means, and the negativity of it. 

If you can address those things upfront, focus on the positives and key areas of opportunity, just the entire demeanor of the room changes and the energy is a big change. So just hitting that upfront because until people hear the answers to those critical questions they have, they're not listening to anything else.

You can have the happiest story going, but if people don't know if they've got a job or not, they're not going to listen that well. It's very critical to address those key concerns up front, and have clarity around that. 

One other aspect that we found very helpful is sharing an integration North Star. Companies have strategies. Their strategies are going to evolve post-close. It can be very helpful to align a company around a vision. The clearer and cleaner that that vision can be on why we acquired this company can be a real rallying flag to people as well as to answer the question: 

  • Why am I being acquired? 
  • Or why did a company acquire my company?

Having that North Star can be important, especially as a company's core strategy can change. That can be a key focus as well.

Send everyone a message with all that again in written communication with those key messages. It's a busy day for folks, being able to follow up with ring communication and clarity around some of these areas is key as well.

Success on Day One

The more anxiety or uncertainty you can take away, the better. I used to push to have offer letters in people's hands on that day because it's one thing to say everyone has a job and this is going to be great, but it's another thing when people can literally hold a piece of paper which says what their job is, their compensation, and their benefits.

I can stand up and say things, but people don't know me. People don't know anyone from the acquiring company. That all sounds great, but what's going to happen in reality? Giving people a piece of paper, which is that contract, that off letter that has that details is very positive.

The other piece is trying to share as much information as possible on that day, because often there can be a financial incentive to people when being acquired. There can be a bonus, salary change, or some other aspect.     

But then, down the road, you can get caught out if you say you do benefits integration and take them away. That naturally upsets people. And like, if it's a gym membership, people basically want to be compensated for that. 

You can't point back to them and say they had an acquisition bonus or had an increase in salary anyway. That's great, but that was then, this is now. This is an incremental thing, therefore, they can get upset about it and you need to do something about it.The more you can bundle all of the news as possible upfront and give people a clean overview of their employment situation, that's incredibly helpful.

Also, putting a face and a person to the company, to the acquiring company is key. After that, have a social event and some way for the acquired companies to interact with people from the new company. You don't want to do the presentation and fly to wherever after, hoping to see them all again soon.

It's much more helpful to stay around to chit-chat with folks, to understand what they're thinking, and put a face or a name to a company to face people that don't understand or don't know that well.

Also, there are a lot of people who want to attend day ones and the announcement days when they're in person, and I would always be very selective and thoughtful about who would attend from Amazon, so I would want to take people who are going to be involved in the process going forward.

Any acquiring company is typically way bigger than the company being acquired and the company getting acquired gets lost with a number of people that roll through on a weekly or monthly basis on integrations. 

Know the people on day one and their roles going forward, and address their questions by leading them to the right person who can answer and make sure everyone who is there has a role. 

They have a role in scratching forward and potentially have a role in maybe doing breakout sessions. Putting people to work and having them engage actively with the employees as well is key, and also having a very positive engagement with employees after that announcement once things calm down and touch.

I also think the last point on this is that this is the opportunity to put the integration manager front and center. Any integration manager should be basically the best project manager that you can ever expect. 

As a start, I would put that person on the stage. They would be the Marshall ceremonies. They could be there and engage with employees sharing contact details. And if you have questions, they would be the person that can answer questions, be the person that can get stuff done, and be someone that employees can trust. Because that's a critical role for an integration manager–taking these quiet employees on the journey, because there's a lot of change that's likely going to get rolled out. Having a strong relationship and having built trust from that first day is important.

Also, really enabling open communication with employees. Employees at a company know where they struggle. They know what opportunities exist, oftentimes more so than their managers or the senior executives at the company. And so there can be some great integration ideas that are generated from those engagements. Putting the integration manager front and center and having them start there as being a leader for the integration and somebody that employees can trust is important as well.

The ideal way to introduce the integration leader

The integration manager is the person who is responsible for the successful and smooth transition to being part of the bigger company. They're responsible on the acquiring side, for the success of that integration within Amazon, but within the acquiring teams, that person is the face of Amazon or the acquiring company that people should look to and they're the person who can help. If you have any questions, any issues, they're the first point of contact. They should be there and be helpful. 

One thing that I used to focus on day one is there would always be one or two people that work in an area that can be interesting to Amazon. It would be really great to chat with those people, whatever that thing was. Sometimes it might be important. Sometimes, if you were to stack rank it, it would not come up too highly. 

But regardless, I would lean into those folks. I would go out of my way to help them because I know that's just the right thing to do. But I know that they turn around and refer me to people who have questions. And if I was helpful to them, they'd probably tell a few people. If I was not helpful to them, they would probably tell a lot more. 

Taking that attitude of being someone who can help people, help them either understand what is happening or just practically help them be better at them, more successful in their jobs, and see the opportunities that the acquiring company can provide that people couldn't see or wouldn't even have access to as a standalone company.

An integration manager can be very poor and a transaction can still be very successful. But every action an integration manager does increases the chance of success.

Anything that person touches, it makes it a little better. It makes things a little smoother. It helps a person be a little better at their job. It reduces the anxiety of a person, it accelerates the sales cycle of a product, and it's really a big groundbreaking thing. 

Integration is a lot of small improvements. It's a lot of incrementality that when you add those together or multiply those up, it has a huge impact. It's frequently not very glamorous. There's a lot of hard work and down in the details, but it's what is necessary to make any integration successful or to maximize the chance that is successful because everything that integration manager touches should make the interaction between the two companies a little bit better.

Keeping managers along the journey

Underlying a lot of this is a broad communications plan from what I would call a TechTalk, which is sometimes a minute-by-minute overview of who does what, where, why, and when, and then a wide variety of talking points and FAQs. 

For managers, there is:

  • Explaining the rationale 
  • Have them be comfortable addressing their "what does this mean to me?" questions. 

But then, going through those details and explaining to them, trying to address the questions that employees will send their way, having a very detailed employee FAQ, which has every question we could think of that employees would ask in relation to this transaction and what is an answer to that.

So that managers have the chance to have that and read through that and just see where Amazon is coming from in a variety of ways. That helps them look organized in front of their employees and builds the trust of their employees in them and in any way you can do that and help them be successful on that day. 

Having those attributes, enabling them to ask their questions, and maybe their slightly different questions. It's a smaller group. They're very large employees, employee announcements or all hands.

Oftentimes there's not too many questions. People are hesitant to ask questions. In a larger group, you can do a manager's meeting in a much smaller environment where people can ask some of the real questions. 

Also, it's another way to understand that maybe there are employee concerns that we might not have thought of that can come up in those discussions as well. And we can have a good active dialogue on how to address those or how to be thoughtful around those as they may come up in a bigger session.

Timeframe for managers

These things are of balance because the more people you bring in, the more risk there is of having things leak. Whether that's internally within the company, whether that might be publicly, there's a judgment call as to how broad that happens.

Everyone wants to know as far in advance as possible. But the reality is that's rarely achievable. It's a balance. It is typically not a long time period. You also have to be careful, so in a situation where there are a lot of people in an office, people notice when suddenly the managers disappear.

People notice where execs are or when they're around or when they're not if there's a sizable population in an office as well. So, you have to be considerate about these things as well. But typically, say an employee all-hands is scheduled at 10, and you have the manager's meeting at 8:00 or 8:30. You have a discussion for an hour and allow them to read through the documents that were provided, but it would turn around pretty quick. 

Integration North Star

Some examples are pretty helpful. Amazon or AWS bought a number of small companies. Turning around and saying, our new North Star is to launch an AWS service based on the acquired company and put that in the AWS portfolio of services, people get very excited about that. 

That's a real stamp of approval. People see it as a stamp of approval of great technology that could be incredibly valuable to hundreds, thousands, millions of customers of AWS. So putting that down and saying we want to launch an AWS service is a natural example of that as that's very clear and specific.

Sometimes companies' vision or people set up milestones around fundraising or IPOing and people are very focused on working in a company and with a goal to be ready to IPO. Say, that company gets acquired, suddenly that's totally off the table.

There needs to be something to focus the employees on like:

  • What does that mean? 
  • What's next for the company? 
  • What's our big audacious goal that we've been going for?

Because you've been very focused on getting ready for an IPO, but now that's disappeared. What's next? It's important to reset people's expectations and it's typically a good opportunity to set new large goals with all the opportunities that come from the acquiring company. There's typically a number of big audacious opportunities that can be achieved through that acquisition. 

Keeping the Day One momentum

Keeping the day one momentum is tough because people naturally dig into the weeds, get into the details of execution very quickly, so having the communications plan for the day one is significant.

But once we're done with that, it's having a cadence of communication with employees over time. Like how do you feed these same messages into an ongoing cadence of communication more broadly? Any integration project or integration management office should have a cadence, a communication of cadence with employees, whether that's newsletters or blog postings or being part of all hands or all company meetings, whatever fits the culture of the company that was acquired. 

  • Having consistency and communication around what is happening with the integration
  • Sharing what is happening across the acquired company
  • Helping the acquiring company
  • Helping the acquired employees better understand the company that just bought them and the culture that they're coming into.

It's critical to have a very active communication strategy through those first three, six-plus months when a lot of change is being rolled out to employees. And as part of that, there's a consistent reiteration or updates against these goals. Because it starts off with just a single statement, and then hopefully within a month, or if there's a timeframe to that, there's resources being aligned to it. 

There's a momentum that's being gained in the post-close, the momentum that's being gained against those that have a significant goal, and it's something that people are hearing on a regular basis.

This is very much an employee's journey. One of my better decisions over time at Amazon was starting a change management team, which I thought at the time when I set it up was a sort of cultural due diligence and integration team given their culture is one of the biggest challenges that people have through integrations.

But having a wonderful and active change management function that is deeply thoughtful about the employee experience, both on day one and on a continual basis, is critical. And it makes a huge difference to actively engage with an employee base through that time of significant change.

Offer letters

It is a lot easier now than it was when we'd have boxes of pieces of paper that we'd be schlepping on planes and sat there until the early hours stuffing envelopes, which is what we would do a good few years ago.

Thankfully, things are now much easier with electronic documents now, but the documents are one thing. The decisions in the documents are actually much more challenging. 

  • What should people's compensation be? 
  • How may compensation change? 

Some very significant decisions are made at that point and detailed discussions with every single employee. 

There's a balance of what you commit to at what stage, and it depends on the size of the company and the size of the employee base, whether you are able to do that.

In an ideal scenario, providing as much clarity as possible on that Day One announcement is really important. But sometimes scale just gets in the way and then that becomes not possible at a certain point, but if it is possible to do that and make those decisions, it is incredibly beneficial.

It just enables people to move past their uncertainty and just move to the new normal or have a deep understanding of what the new normal is versus there being a lot of conversations about titles might change, or compensation might change, or benefits might change, which can cause uncertainty. And uncertainty doesn't help anyone. Taking as much of that away as quickly as possible is hugely beneficial. 

Identifying and positioning good faces of the acquired company

Everyone wants to know who the CEO's new boss is, or who their new boss is. So having that person be front and center and be a big part of any presentation or any discussion, is critical and that is probably the most important person to be in attendance.

And if there are kind of business integration folks or people who are going to be involved or lead certain aspects of the integration, they're important. If there's a central integration team, having them, there is very important as well.

If you are doing your off letters, a strong contingent from human resources or the people team of any company as well to manage any of that change that you actually rolled out that day is key. 

But bringing leaders that have a direct relevance to that business and that people will see again. We talk a lot with the business sponsors that are having active travel or now very actively participating in all hands and being a very consistent base to the newly acquired base is very important. That day one is the first opportunity to do that and then setting a cadence of engagement over time. 

It's mostly the business leaders. Like the GM of a business that's acquiring it and the head of technology or the head of engineering. I think those folks are the key leaders that people are looking for, and then if you're actively talking about functional integration areas then those other folks are sort of secondary to that, but not as important on that very first day.

Discussing integration plan with newly acquired employees

Amazon acquired Zappos a few years ago. And Zappos was this sort of wonderfully quirky company that had its amazing culture and deeply held key values. One of theirs was open and honest communication, and it was a critical part of that integration. I would typically be fairly guarded and careful in what was shared.

But the Zappos experience showed me the benefits of leaning in and being more open. Again, there's a balance about what you can and can't share. There's also a balance of what clarity you have at certain times. There's a depth of detail that only comes after active engagement with more people, which you can only do once the acquisition is announced. 

But my default was to lean into sharing and I could feel some of the Zappos leaders sat on my shoulder talking about open, honest, engaging communication being critical in taking people on that journey and its balance, but more is better.

How early to start integration planning

From that moment of engagement and engagement is a term sheet is coming around and up to that point before a term. It comes down to why are you buying a company? If you have to be able to answer, hopefully folks can answer that question at the time they sign a term sheet, which means there you can start to formulate what one integration plan could look like to get folks set up, because any integration starts with the strategy. 

As an integration manager, it's hearing that strategy or that business strategy that is out there and then thinking about its framework. Every company has a framework of integration or things that are typically done, but then what does that strategy break? How do I tweak, change, and adjust that framework or playbook to maximize the success of this transaction? 

Some people are hung up on playbooks and frameworks, and I've had people in the past who told me they don't need integration help; they just need the playbook and will take care of it. 

Well, the playbook is 10% of the value or 20% of the value. So it's essential and it's key. But the expertise and the value truly come from an integration manager, knowing when to follow it, when to throw it out, when to tweak it, adjust it to best support that acquisition strategy.

From the time of engagement, as an integration manager, I would always be thinking about what I hear from the company, from the business sponsor, and how does that tweak and change the approach we should take here.

That starts from working through diligence in the company and then starting to write things down on a piece of paper. Before committing to the transaction, having a clear, high level plan of what is going to happen post close on a deal. 

That sounds all quite straightforward, but the difficulty is that people can sit down and talk about things at a high level. And the reality is that people are interpreting those in different ways. So once you start writing things down on a piece of paper and identifying the value drivers and ways that we can best move these forward, various people who are going to be involved going forward have differences of opinions on that. So getting it on a piece of paper, pre-sign and driving alignment with the business sponsor and their team and related parties is incredibly helpful in just getting a clarity of a vision.

Once you sign the deal, once you go through the announcement and then share that with the acquired company and the acquired company who's been very focused on getting to sign and now is thinking about what's happening next, you can turn up with how you set them up for success as this bigger organization. It's getting that on a piece of paper and getting alignment internally and then actively sharing it with your quiet company is critical.

Diligence is deep and everyone's understanding of how the company is evolving through that time. So you have to take a very iterative approach because a lot is changing through that time as you are just learning more about the company evolving and the strategy changes. Maybe things have been tweaked based on what you've learned. 

There are always surprises through due diligence. There are always surprises post-close, good and bad. But having an iterative approach that defines integration. The value of an integration manager is being able to deal with the ambiguity and having the ability to take on that new news and figure out how to best tweak and adjust the integration approach and take everyone else on that journey and try to be one step ahead of others as things will crop up and people will get concerned about that.

The integration manager is a job where you can't turn up with an issue without having an opinion on the solution. Problems arise and an integration manager needs to have an opinion on the solution.

Formulating the communication plan

That starts from that term sheet. If there's a strong opinion, do people have strong opinions about this is going to be a stealth transaction? That should be talked about early on what are the things that are going to influence their communication plan? Because the communication plan is set up to support the broader integration goals. As they get defined and get more clarity, then the evolution of communication plan is there as well. So it's a process. Some of the bigger decisions are having opinions on those going into due diligence is appropriate. 

Different people do things differently. For example, most companies have a PR team, but they can be very focused on external messaging. Some can have a people or HR team who are focused on employees. And then, a lot more audiences need to be communicated to beyond those two, whether that's vendors, suppliers and customers, and governments a wide variety of others.

When something is cross-functional and there's no natural leader, it falls to an integration manager. Some organizations are run as PR, some are run as communications. If there is a communications lead that's helpful to have all those run through. If it's split into PR and the business and HR and others, then there's the integration manager in that type of situation.

Biggest challenge on Day One

The most challenging is the inherent complexity of the day. There is a lot happening on that day, and there's inevitable curve balls that arise as well, so having very organized and having a lot of written communications documents, this sort of tech talk minute-by-minute plan, having talking points for all key audiences, that takes care of a lot of potential churns that can arise. 

Just ensure that people know what the day or days look like, because things will arise. There will be data. There might be errors in data. There might be other issues that crop up through the day, which is where an integration manager should be trying to spend their time.

It's just a very busy and stressful day for any integration manager, because you need to deal with the things that the curves crop up. And if you don't have a very clear and concise plan to start with, if everyone's asking where they should be next, what time is that thing, or, where are we doing breakouts.

If an integration manager is spending their time addressing those, then the curves and the fires that start smoldering small can retake hold versus if the day is organized and some things crop up, things that start off as little kindling can be taken care of real quickly.

So the biggest challenge is the surprises are stuff that pops up. And the best thing to counter is really planning ahead.

There are a lot of things, some words, and phrases that people use, those leaders can use, such as "we will do no harm." Or "this is a merger, not an acquisition." "Nothing is going to change." and things like that. Some of that terminology, which people believe and think they're calming acquired companies down. 

They're saying a thing that people want to hear and will be calming to folks, but then it is counterproductive because these folks typically work at small companies. Things change all the time.

Saying nothing will change on the back of this acquisition is counterproductive. When you have many people from the acquiring company being there and engaging with employees, many of them are going through an M&A experience for the first time. The consistency of the messaging that people provide and avoiding some kind of hot buttons, such as some of those phrases is not uncommon.

Big lessons

There are a lot of scars. M&A is hard, and integration is hard. We've all learned from lessons along the way, there's good ones.

  • Never play a video in a PowerPoint presentation. 
  • Simplicity is good.
  • Being honest.

Cultural unity

It comes back to that overarching, broader communication plan. Any acquiring company's culture is going to be nuanced and detailed. Starting on that first day at the highest level, what are the company's core values? What is the mission statement or core values? Start at a fairly high level because people don't remember too much. 

Then, following up from an Amazon perspective, there were the leadership principles, which Amazon holds very deep, and they're the communication of the language of the company. They are talked about in most meetings that happen at the company. People actively reference them consistently. 

They're definitely not words on the wall that people don't discuss. So we would have a cadence of education of:

  • What is Amazon?
  • What's important to Amazon?

And then you slowly peel back the onion at the high level of the admission statement, discuss leadership principles and about what they are or what they are and what they're not, and then talk about how they're used as mechanisms within the company. 

In performance management, people talk about leadership principles. How are people aligned to Amazon's leadership principles when you're talking about an annual performance? Once you get there, people understand. And this is how people think about whether you are a high-performing employee, whether you're demonstrating some of these, this is serious. But it's that kind of cadence of education and consistency of message and being clear across time.

People can't be good at a 20-minute presentation. So there needs to be a steady stream of education that happens and if you do that, then a presentation is kind of a theory, and then people start to interact and they can see what's happening. 

If you chat to people again in a month, you can ask how people's interaction has been since we last talked. And people can say what happened, they can recall some key points, ask questions about what they don't understand, and you can have that engagement. 

So you have the theory of a presentation, then people's practice for a month, and then another discussion. And again, it just takes people on that journey to be part of a bigger organization, which is naturally going to be culturally quite different, the one that they've been in for a time.

Active engagement with employees is key, whether it's organized meetings. Now with the prevalent use of Slack and other very active communication mechanisms, it is helpful for M&A. It enables greater engagement and an employee base. Those have been particularly helpful in questions put into Slack channels, which the whole of the acquired company can see. And Amazon's responses to those are incredibly important. Again, it's an excellent way to have broad communication across a wide number of people in an effective means.  

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