So You Think Your Company Is Up for Sale???

It’s hard to be a brand new hire—or even a seasoned employee–amid rumors that your company might be up for grabs. We get concerns from alumni and even new MBA  hires who are in this situation and wonder whether they should hit the panic button, hit the pavement with a new job search or both. Our Executive Director of the Career Management Center, Read McNamara, had some sage advice with a recent inquiry along these lines that I am sharing, with one additional overlay:  The learning in a merger or acquisition environment can be enormous including:  keeping the business moving forward in times of crisis, experiencing change management and integration that can inform the rest of your career, learning to avoid hallway gossip, watching how alliances form–generally at the top and middle, not as often at the entry levels because of the point Read makes about “newer” employees being likely to aid a transformation to a new culture. I survived a big merger and others will too. And, our Alumni Career Services Team is always here to assist if needed.

Read McNamara writes:

I was in this uncomfortable position three times in my career and twice was part of a company that was acquired. While it is a difficult position to be in, particularly if you are about to join a firm that “is exploring strategic alternatives,” the best advice we can give to our students and alumni is that they move ahead as planned and produce good work. Other options are not really options:

1.       If about to start employment and the rumors hit the news, reneging and starting to look for another job at this point is not smart. Most hiring is already done (May), the renege will be premature, and the financial and career consequences are tough.

2.       Asking the company to clarify whether or not it is “for sale” is amateurish and will annoy the people at the company, who are probably even more nervous about their future–they have years of service and roots in the community.

3.       ALL COMPANIES ARE ALWAYS FOR SALE, particularly publicly owned companies with a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize shareholder value.

In fact, if a company has said it might be for sale, this is refreshingly honest. It allows new hires to go in with their eyes open; many, on the other hand, will go to work for companies that are already secretly in talks to sell, and the disruption to life and career could be abrupt but isn’t always. It’s just unknown until the big reveal.   Personally, I believe our community should view these situations as more often opportunities as opposed to threats. If newly hired MBAs read stuff in the news but report for work as agreed to, they typically will be viewed as mature and rational. If the company is sold thereafter, the newcomers will be seen as untainted by existing culture. The acquirer will likely enlist the fresh younger faces to help them transform the company and capture the “synergies” for which they no doubt paid a hefty premium over market.

Well put, Read. And, as Owen alumni  have learned, you should always have a current resume ready because we live in a dynamic business world: even internally, the job you have may be dissolved. You will need to be ready to interview within your shifting organization. Being ready is smart; being reactionary is not. It’s best always to raise your hand to be part of the solution with the needs of the business in mind.


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