If you're merging your RIA firm with another, you've probably invested significant time, energy, and resources into preparing for the merge. However, the hard work doesn't stop once the merger happens. In fact, there's substantial planning and work to be done immediately after the merger to make sure your team can successfully transition to the firm's new culture.
A culture shift can be tricky to navigate in any merger. There's sometimes a tendency for employees to mentally stay in the culture of the old firm. They get stuck in the "that's not how we used to do it" mentality. They have trouble adjusting to new systems. They may clash with the new employees from the other firm. They may struggle with the new processes of the firm.
The best way to avoid this thinking and create a new culture is to prepare for these roadblocks from the outset. Employees often struggle to adjust to the new culture when the transition happens slowly with stops and starts. With the right preparation, you can launch the new, combined firm quickly, which will immediately put the culture of the old firm in the rear view mirror.
Here are a few steps you can take to ease the transition:
Create and distribute key defining documents. Your new firm should have a business plan and within that plan you should spell out the firm's objectives, values, and mission. Those ideas will establish your firm's new identity, purpose, and culture. It's not enough to simply create these documents, though. You need to share them at every opportunity possible. Have a kick-off event with the team members from both firms where you share the new mission and company values. Reiterate these ideas on calls, in meetings, and in regular communications. Doing so will set the tone that the new firm is the priority and that the old firm is being left behind.
Change the brand. It's hard for team members to let go of the old firm when they still see signs of it all around them. Far too often, firms merge, but then put off changing their logo, signage, and branding. Make this change immediately. The first day after the merger, have new signage on the office. Have new stationary, business cards, and other collateral available immediately. This will send a clear sign that the new firm has been established and the old one has been put in the past.
Identify those team members who are having trouble adjusting. Even after you merge and complete all these steps, you'll still have team members who are stuck in the past. Identify these employees quickly and sit down with them individually to see what they're having trouble with and how you can help. They may have issues with any new computer systems or may be clashing with new employees from the other firm. Try to help them overcome the issue while also making it clear that the new firm is the new reality and they must adjust to it.
Some employees may decide that they'd rather move on than work for the new firm. That's okay. What's more important is that the merged firm gets a fair opportunity to launch and that firm's employees give their full commitment to its success. Solid preparation on your part can help ensure that your team is ready to dive right into the new firm with enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
Phillip Flakes is Co-Founder and CEO of Succession Link