Recently, we have seen a growing number of mergers and acquisitions in the manufacturing space.
After these deals are finalized there’s a lot of uncertainty for the employees caught in the middle of reorganization.
Our guest on the podcast today is Jennifer Fondrevay. Jennifer is a best selling author and the Founder of Day1 Ready, a consultancy that advises companies on how to prepare for challenges that result from changes in the workplace.
This interview will be helpful for anybody dealing uncertainty in their work environment.
Noah Graff: Explain your company, Day1 Ready. What is the significance of the name?
Jennifer Fondrevay: I felt that too often in mergers and acquisitions, buyers sellers on both sides, thought day one was the moment they announced the deal. My philosophy was, nope, that is not day one. Your day one is from the moment you as leaders or business owners or CEOs, start thinking about a merger or an acquisition. Even if you don’t share with anyone that you’re thinking about doing a merger and acquisition, people start to pick up on your decision making, the fact that you’re traveling a lot, that you’re not in the office. My focus is helping you be day one ready, so that the moment you make that announcement, you are ready for all the questions you’ll get.
This is how people react. Here are all the ways that you need to be prepared as a leader to help your people navigate the change that’s going to happen.
Graff: Tell me about your book, NOW WHAT?: A Survivor’s Guide for Thriving Through Mergers & Acquisitions?
Fondrevay: I interviewed 60-plus CEOs and CFOs from Fortune 500 as well as small and middle sized businesses. Consistently they shared the same challenges that they had with people. How people react to change.
I was a chief marketing officer at several multi-billion dollar [companies], and I went through three separate multi-billion dollar deals. The first [deal] that I talk about in my book is really what motivated me to write the book. I had the privilege of working at Navteq, heading up the B2B marketing. We were acquired by Nokia in 2008 for roughly $9 billion.
Graff: What advice do you have for executives coming into an M&A deal?
Fondrevay: Consistently come to the deal with respect for the other side. You have to treat this like a marriage.
I have never seen a deal go well when both sides are either arrogant or one side is arrogant, thinking they’re saving another business.
Humans don’t like change, they abhor uncertainty. There’s a lot of things that are going to play out. Variables you cannot control, but focus on what you can control. Prepare your people, have answers to questions.
Graff: You break employees down into several types in your keynote. Explain some of them.
Fondrevay: The “former rockstar” is the person who consistently in the original company had the Midas touch. They could have been head of sales, head of product, head of marketing. The person who had the CEO’s ear.
The struggle that will turn them into a former rockstar is that once the deal is done, the metrics for success change.
Graff: How do you help them?
Fondrevay: Acknowledge the really important role that they played in helping get the business to where it is. But with the rockstar, the number one piece of advice I highlight to CEOs is you can’t coddle them. Because then he or she tends to keep things as the old way of doing things. After a certain point, if you let that person stay on and they continue to say, “this isn’t gonna work,” he or she can become toxic.
Graff: What is another type of employee you discuss in your work?
Fondrevay: “The missing in action.” The people who hold back. They really don’t contribute much. They don’t volunteer and lead anything. They put in the bare minimum because they’re trying to see how things are going to play.
The reason why in our discussion I referenced quiet quitting is it’s a lot of the same symptoms. They actively disengage. But you may not necessarily pick up on it right away. They’re physically present, but you aren’t even sure what they do.
So you need to prepare for how that [organization] chart is going to look? What will be the titles, the departments? Are people going to maintain the same compensation? Will they have their vacation days? These sound like very basic questions, but the more you don’t have answers to basic questions, the more people worry and hold back to see what’s going to happen.
Graff: Give me one more type of employee?
Fondrevay: The dominatrix. That person who is laser focused on the objectives and getting the job done. They’re not there to make friends. They aren’t there to build consensus. That personality can be enormously seductive and very beneficial early on.
When we talk about Elon Musk, that is absolutely his leadership style. He doesn’t hide how he leads. He’s said upfront. “I’m hardcore. If you can’t take it, then go.”
But what can happen is you lose key talent because people say, “I can’t put up with this. This is not the kind of boss I wanna be with. My values don’t align with this person.”
Who knows how this will play out.
Question: When have you felt the most uncertainty in your work environment?
To get in touch with Jennifer Fondrevay, you can go to her website, https://jenniferjfondrevay.com or contact her on LinkedIn.