Guest Column | November 8, 2019

The CEO's Guide To Making Successful International Acquisitions

By Ron Books, ECI Software Solutions

MSP Mergers And Acquisitions

With the digitally inclined world we live in today, all businesses—regardless of where they’re located—are operating in a global economy, interacting with other organizations and individuals all over the world. To meet the demand that comes with that shift, there comes a time in every software business’ life when the leadership team must decide whether they’re ready to expand internationally. The decision could be based on a variety of factors: Is there market opportunity for our software in another country? Is our customer base becoming more global, requiring us to establish an office in their time zone that can serve them during their business hours?

One method of global expansion is to develop an international acquisition strategy. Having participated in and/or led the 12 international acquisitions that ECI has made in the last 18 years—six of which occurred in the last year—I’ve come to understand the dos and don’ts that make an international acquisition successful.

Do: Ensure The Acquisition Will Add True Value To Every Stakeholder—From Customers And Partners, To Employees And Executives

This is a critical consideration for any acquisition—small or large, domestic or international—and for the most part, the questions you’ll need to ask yourself will be the same: Does this business have a strong product or service that will significantly increase the value our company can provide to customers? Will acquiring this company enable us to increase market share in a critical vertical? Will acquiring this company enable us to enter a new market entirely?

However, those questions do start to change slightly once you consider a cross-border deal: Will this acquisition expand our presence in a key region? Will our company be able to successfully grow in this new global market? Will my employees feel connected despite the vast distance between them?

If you can’t answer those questions, then it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate the deal. By doing so, you might open yourself up to new opportunities—and ones that will check all the critical boxes you’re looking for.

Don’t: Underestimate The Importance Of The Acquiring Firm’s Leadership Team

While the driving force behind making an acquisition may be to expand market share, innovation or customer base, adding new talent—and especially executive talent—is key to the success of an international venture. Once the ink is dry and the dust has settled, it will be time to head back to the headquarters or off to another location. Having a strong, existing management team in place who champions the deal will ensure your new global employee base feels welcomed to their new corporate family. Plus, you’ll be able to trust them to make the best day-to-day decisions for that location, despite you not physically being present all the time.

Do: Make Culture A Priority

With employees scattered across different time zones, trying to maintain a consistent and positive workplace culture can be a challenge. That said, it’s a challenge you must face head on and solve for as soon as possible. First and foremost, make sure you have clearly defined core values and corporate goals—and know how to articulate those to your new employees. From there, consider creating a companywide initiative that allows every employee—no matter where they are in the world—to feel recognized, validated and appreciated. At ECI, we’ve created a High5 program, which allows employees to nominate other employees for contributing to ECI’s core values. Employees accumulate points through the program and can use those points to buy from a catalog or donate to a charity of their choice. Not only is this a fun initiative that promotes our business’ goals, but it also unifies our entire global customer base and helps employees get to know each other—even if they’ve never met face to face.

Additionally, set a precedent for regular, companywide meetings for you to update all global teams on the business. This will ensure everyone feels connected and an equal participant in the organization’s success. That said, be mindful of time zones when booking these meetings. While it might not be possible to find a time that works best for everyone, you can work to be accommodating by alternating between mornings and nights every other meeting.

Lastly—but most importantly—take the time to get to know the culture of the company you acquired. What holidays do they celebrate? What types of perks do they enjoy? Showing genuine interest in their culture will go a long way in helping them feel a part of yours.

Don’t: Be Afraid To Overcommunicate—Especially After The Deal Is Signed

Communication is core to the success of a deal but continuing that communication to stakeholders well after the deal is signed is crucial. Set up an in-person new hire orientation led by the core executive team and your head of HR to welcome acquired employees, introduce them to your company and outline expectations. Being acquired can be an overwhelming experience—particularly if your new company hails from a different country—but overcommunicating can calm that uneasiness and set your new employees up for success.

Whether this is your first or twentieth international acquisition, these dos and don’ts will help ensure your company is meeting its global expansion goals, and ensure the deal goes off without a hitch.

About The Author

Ron Books is CEO of ECI Software Solutions.