Anne-Catherine Trinon, CEO of Altavia ACT*, shares how she steered the successful merger of her Belgian marketing services agency.
In the life of a company, whether in marketing communications, advertising or any other sector, a fusion constitutes a special moment. And it’s only after settling all the administrative red tape, that the work really starts: getting your employees on board of this new project, with a unified vision.
In 2015 my company ACT*, which I founded in 1997, was acquired by Altavia Group. As we were both marketing services companies specialised in retail, the merger was a logic step and over the past years I’ve had the pleasure of leading the newly formed Altavia ACT*.
A merger is never easy, but following the principle of collective intelligence, firmly embedded in the DNA of our agency, here are a few key steps to facilitating the process.
Anticipate change to transform early
One month before the announcement, the management held a seminar where we worked thoroughly on the positive consequences as well as the pitfalls of the merger. This allowed us to get a head start on any fears, doubts and blocks we would be confronted with by both workforces. Needless to say that the day of announcement was prepared with care, to already lay the foundations of the transformation this radical shift would entail.
Announce with confidence and care, then listen
After having announced the merger separately to both companies, every employee received an FAQ in which they would find the answers to the bulk of their questions. We also put a safe zone into place, where everyone could come and anonymously write their questions or doubts on the wall. Every day, I personally went through them and treated the answers with care together with the entire management team.
Come together and get to know each other…
Since I was already managing ACT* but was new at Altavia, I saw every single employee separately to discuss our mutual future. Everything could be said and would be kept between us. Shortly after, we united the teams and had them work together on how they could collaborate more closely, how their skills could be complimentary and what they could do themselves to facilitate the process.
…then get to know each other more to start collaborating
Let’s not forget the regular drinks, diners and lunches we shared to strengthen our bonds. Particularly successful were the speed dates in which the paired employees had three minutes to introduce themselves and see how they could forge a connection. The goal? Readying them even further for the next big step: moving house and sharing one single office. It was the undeniable full-force launch of our new agency, with new teams, skills, goals and ways of working.
Stay vigilant, keep listening and evolve constantly
Organising joint breakfasts, mingling the different teams, having weekly inter-departmental statuses, daily stand-ups and timely steering committees, helps us to keep our finger on the pulse of our company, as well as boost employee involvement and participation. The advantage? By eliminating the fear of being challenged internally and opening up the future of our company to every single employee, we keep evolving and getting better in what we do. As should be the purpose of every company.