Bob Sprague, President and CEO of Yes&, joined a panel on “HR Considerations in Mergers & Acquisitions,” at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.  Sprague drew on his personal experience with the four mergers that have grown Yes& to its current 75 employees, along with assisting clients with the communications surrounding their own mergers and acquisitions beginning in 1988. The Exit Planning Institute meeting attracted about forty business sellers, buyers and other interested parties.

Sprague stressed that culture is by far the most important success factor in a business transition. Asked how he evaluates a culture fit in advance, when communication and access is limited by confidentiality, he described the “corporate lore”—stories and anecdotes related by sellers and their top confidants that provide a much more telling account of culture than typical mission/vision/values statements.

Once a merger or acquisition is announced, he stressed the need for immediate, super high-touch communication with the existing staff. “The new definition of the speed of light is how fast rumors travel within a corporation,” Sprague said. Among the practices at Yes& are carefully crafted communications plans, prompt, one-on-one meetings with every staff member, presentations and show-and-tell by Yes& culture leaders, guarantees for employment and benefits equity, and sponsored social get-togethers within the first few days of the announcement.

Yes& continues to seek both organic growth and alliances with culturally compatible firms. The experience of four mergers helps Bob and his team to evaluate, plan for success or—not infrequently—make a decision to walk away.

Matt Whitaker of Quantive moderated the panel, which also included Katy Herr of Audacia Strategies, Jim Camic of SOC Telemed, and Mark Stevenson of Smart HR.

Yes&, a Capitol Communicator sponsor, is the Washington, D.C.-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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