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  • Keith Wells

What do you do, if the merger doesn't happen?

In all the excitement that's created around The Deal, who wants to think about the "But what if...?" questions. We've worked on many M&A projects, on all sides of the table, and we might come back to that another time. But a recent conversation with a client highlighted the problems created when it all falls through.

It seems particularly relevant now, with so much attention focusing now on M&A as a way towards economic recovery (and we know of at least a couple of sectors in which organisations are publicly admitting to being 'in play' as they search for partners, or acquirers). As a part of that developing client conversation, we have created a quick check-list of actions - not only in this one specific instance, but more as a 'keep in mind' for anyone considering their own version of a deal.

1. Ensure that the M or A is understood to be one option within your strategy. If people feel that the whole future of the organisation rests on this deal, they will feel less than optimistic if doesn't come through. Call it scenario planning, if you like, but strategy is ultimately about making choices and potential deals are just another of those.

2. Actively work on a "life as a singleton" strategy. M&As can be exciting (largely depending on which side of the deal you're on) but always energy- and time-consuming. If the deal fails to materialise, you'll need to pick up the pace and the optimism for your own vision. Immediately. One business we know gave its leadership team 24 hours to "get over it" and to ensure that all their teams were fully engaged in their own new strategy. If you don't believe in your own business, why should someone else?

3. Own the narrative. We've worked with two clients who were to be the acquired rather than the acquirer. One had hunkered down, in denial and defensive; the other both combative and positive. Neither deal worked out, but of the two clients, the latter recovered quickly, retained its key people and gained new admiration.

4. Communicate like never before. We'd say the same throughout the entire M&A process, but it's critical if the plan doesn't come off. Be open, be consistent and be accessible. Share your enthusiasm for the future that's opened

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