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How to Be Acquired

Changing company
Managing Expectations
Company Culture
Team processes

16 February, 2021

Benjamin De Point, Sr. Director of Engineering at Coupa Software, outlines what to do -- and what not to do -- when acquired and going through challenging times.

Problem


I moved to Pittsburgh, PA, for a VP of Software Development role at a Fintech SaaS company to help them bring their new platform to market. Software & Quality Engineering were my responsibility with a plan of taking over DevOps and Project Management. Two months into my new role, my new company sold my team and product. After the sale, morale took a dip. The new company demoted me, reduced my salary by 30%, broke the group into functional silos, jettisoned the new platform, reduced headcount, and installed heavier processes.
 

Actions taken


What not to do

My initial reaction was wrong - anger. The demotion and reduction in salary and scope left a bad taste in my mouth. I resented the acquisition and lost focus, resulting in a slower, more painful integration with the new company, and the team suffered.
 

What to do

Take ownership of the acquisition and the success of you and your team’s transition. Be purposeful about learning the culture, establishing relationships, and shielding your team.

  • Culture. Embrace the new values. I looked for overlaps in my new company’s values and the old, and then I sought ways to live and promote the new set of ideals.
  • Relationships. I built a connection with different peers involved in various projects; they became a go-to person for technical and organizational questions.
  • Shielding. Acquisitions can bring rapid change leading to turmoil. Immediately, the new company changed our tooling, processes, and organizational structure. While the disruptions were bad, they could have been worse. I did my best abstract away process changes, so the team could focus on building software. For example, the new company had different ticket flows for features and customer bugs. We had one flow for all work. I was able to identify a way to keep our single flow approach and still produce the new company’s desired outcomes.
     

Lessons learned


You have to accept the acquisition; your new company and the team deserve the best version of you. Be a servant leader - focus on helping the team through this challenging period and not personal things out of your control. Ask the acquiring company what their list of must-have changes are and implement them immediately. I made the mistake of waiting to see what comes next, causing the transition to take way too long. If I had asked upfront, we could have ripped the bandaid and moved on in weeks instead of months.

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