I got hired and the company is being acquired
May 1, 2011 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I accepted a position with a small firm, only to find out a few days before the start date that the company is being acquired by a larger firm. As the new person coming onboard, what should I expect? What do I should I prepare myself for? Anyone else been through a similar experience?

The impression that I got from the interview process was that they have been looking for someone to fill this position for awhile now and there was a great need for the position. The company is in somewhat of a niche market and has acquired quite a few smaller companies in the past, bringing its total number of employees to a little less than 400.

The second company that is buying this smaller company is about 1,000 employees. It sounds like the two companies are going to merge rather than to keep the smaller company as a subsidiary. The deal should close later this year and it doesn't sound like there is an overlap in terms of customers.

That being said, I realized that the position that I was hired for may change. So what should I expect and how should I prepare myself? What questions should I ask to get a pulse of what’s going to happen? Or at least be on the look out for?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total)
This exact thing happened to me, and the only fallout was that they temporarily changed my title just as they hired me.

The small company (the one that hired me) was bought by the big company, and during the transition period the small company agreed not to hire anyone above the level of administrative assistant. So they still gave me the agreed-upon job at the agreed-upon salary, but just changed my title to admin. About six months later they changed it back to reflect the job I was actually doing. I thought at the time that it might have meant trouble in terms of leaving that job and having my record reflect the wrong title, but that never happened.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:09 PM on May 1, 2011

Have been in this exact situation once (new hire at a company getting acquired), and have been through maybe four other M&A's and seen it happen with a couple of clients when I was consulting.

The key question is to understand why your new company is getting acquired. Based on my experience it could be that the acquisition is completely complimentary to their business, it could be they want a specific division/line of business, intellectual property, or it might be they just want to buy the customer base. In the most complicated M&A I went through, we were acquired for a specific line of business and the customer base; we had competing intellectual property that was essentially landfilled, and the other lines of business were immediately sold off to a third company.

Here are some of the things I observed from these acquisitions:

In all scenarios, administrative functions (legal, HR, sales, payroll, etc.) were consolidated, though it always seemed to take anywhere from a couple of months up to a year for that to happen.

In some cases, offices were shut down and employees were moved (if both companies had a local presence). I saw this happen in San Jose and in Atlanta (places with sometimes horrific commutes). Surprisingly, this single thing turned out to be a deal breaker for bunches of employees who ended up leaving the company because they suddenly had an extra hour of commute each way.

Some companies did enough acquisitions that it was a competency for them and they had a very orderly process (so information came soon and often to affected employees); others, not so much.

New projects, hiring, expansion plans and anything that wasn't day-to-day operations went on hold in just about every case.

In all cases, even when the acquiring company was good at making acquisitions, there was a lot of angst and rumors flying around and not much work getting done for at least a few months after the acquisition was announced.

On preview, my answer looks a little discouraging. I hope this helps. Good luck with your new job.
posted by kovacs at 9:39 PM on May 1, 2011

I see a huge advantage here. The problem coming in as a newbie is low seniority, low prestige, having to forge connections and alliances to move up. Your coworkers have incumbent advantage, so to speak.

But with this looming, everything's much more level. Unless the acquiring company is taking very seriously the advice of your company's managers, which is not the usual way of these things, you have a shot at leapfrogging, or at least not being among the casualties.

I'd research the acquiring company to understand exactly what they do and where they are trying to go. And do your damndest to get yourself into the sweet spot of that and add (in free time) extra qualifications/skills/trainings in those areas.

In other words, turn yourself into a lure ala: "I just took this job there cuz it was offered, but, really, my skill set MUCH more closely matches what you guys are doing and I'm really psyched to make this transition". The new managers are probably not going to look for the most senior or even necessarily the most highly skilled employees. They're going to look for the employees most suited to the direction they're headed in.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:52 PM on May 1, 2011

I would prepare for the possibility that you may get laid off. I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen, or even that it's highly probable, but when companies merge, they often let go of staff, and more junior staff are more vulnerable. If you have feelers out at other companies, I wouldn't withdraw them just yet. Until you know for certain that they intend to keep you, I'd continue to keep an eye out for other positions.
posted by decathecting at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2011

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