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Mar 24, 2010

Corporate Identify is more than a logo

Instructor, Mitch McDeere
Aquirion* is a global industry leader experiencing growth and revenue in an otherwise collapsing economy.  Stock prices are rising, media coverage is positive, customer loyalty is high.  The company job board is bursting, with openings in several high-tech economy states where plenty of candidates are immediately available, thanks to rampant lay-offs of experienced talent.

The Company has briefcases full of cash, with which to buy the small struggling companies who have perforated their own space so raggedly that none of them owns the "wallet share."  Aquirion can make the offer their boards of directors can not refuse, and every day the Aquirion family grows.

 New arrivals on the Company shores receive their welcome packets and fleece vests in the new company colors.  They unpack at their new desks  -- some parts improvement and some parts disappointment -- and try to pick up their projects where they left off last week.  They have high hopes for life on the Gold Mountain, but of course they never forget The Old Country.

At its worst, the Company never breaks out of its camp mentality.  Typically, corporate uniformity will take over as the workforce ages and the hard-liners are weeded out.  But the Finishing School understands that Aquirion and its like strive to be greater than the sums of  their parts, so we offer some recommendations for both management and staff.  We invite our students and readers to continue this dialogue with their comments and strengthen the Aquirions among us.

Less is more with the new logo
No one wants their history "disappeared." Especially when it is a history they helped create.  The new colors, name, and logo are an important part of forming your new identity, but try not to wipe old identities off the map.  One big ticket item is enough -- the jacket, the laptop bag, the coffee cups on every desk.  But just one.

Celebrate your heritage
Why not use some of your corporate art space  to frame the old logos, mascots, colors, ad campaigns?  Encourage member companies to display their awards, patents, and founders' portraits. Something about these members of the family was worth paying for.  Let everyone know.

Allow room for adjustment
This is especially difficult when competitors are suddenly bed-fellows.  In corporate life, we put a lot of energy into defining the enemy as the worst thing that could ever happen to our customers and our industryBe patient while your staff try to unlearn that lesson.

Encourage mingling
Pigeonholing isn't caused by hostility, but it can breed it.  Look for cross-functional workteam opportunities for member companies to share talent.  An internal apprenticeship program might be a start. Try a Think Tank, consolidated trade show team, interview teams, or R&D projects.  Dream outside the "staff council" and "softball team" box, though those work too.

This means you, acquired staff.  When your company puts out the call for representational participation, get in there and mix it up!

Orient new staff to a new company, made up of the rich diversity of its member companies.  Teach the history of your new company as part of New Hire indoctrination. 

Be open-minded.  Not all mergers go swimmingly.  Some have been infamous disasters; others came out stronger than they began.  What those stories have in common are setting a tone from the outset that all member companies have value and that decisions will be made by, and for, all stakeholders.

ODCT, Organization Development Consulting and Training, of Seattle, WA, offers some Best Practices for achieving "[an] outcome in which there is a high degree of internal commitment to and collaboration in the newly merged organization."  Most importantly, they address the tension that will come in any situation where people feel they are giving up control of their personal and business success.

Aquirion can not simply declare a "new chapter" and declare that the past is behind us.  They will always be The Other if they choose that route, rather than the profitable umbrella they intend to be.

*Aquirion represents a typical parent company, based on the varied professional experiences of our faculty.  Any similarity to a specific company is the result of the mega-merger conglomeration of global business.

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