Move Quickly, Execute Flexibly, and Partner Strategically
The following summary is from an ACG event featuring Russ White, Vice President of Technology and Engineering at Allied Universal Technology Services (AUTS), a sub-division of Allied Universal, one of the largest securities and facility services companies in North America.
To successfully execute on a growth strategy through acquisitions, companies must move with agility to integrate any new acquisitions into the parent company. Having the right strategy, technology roadmap, and solution partners in place provides a strong foundation to successfully scale and integrate various departments.
Since 2017, Allied Universal (AUS) has acquired and strategically integrated nine companies into its organization. Their most recent acquisition at the beginning of April 2021 helped establish AUS as one of the largest private securities and facility services companies in North America, with $18 billion in revenue and over 800,000 employees in 90 countries worldwide. Russ White, VP of Technology & Engineering, sat down with VistaVu’s VP Consulting & Growth, Tony Balasubramanian, to discuss how AUS has very rapidly integrated their acquisitions into the company in a matter of days or weeks.
Based on their discussion, here are the three best practices when establishing a strong integration strategy:
1. Move Quickly
Successfully integrating acquisitions requires organizing and planning a lot of moving pieces, from people to technology to data. While taking a slow, methodical approach to integration may seem like the most effective solution, it can surprisingly hinder your long-term success. Before AUS, Russ had conducted lengthy acquisition processes that would take a year or more, however when his previous company, Securadyne, was acquired by AUS, he was introduced to the benefits of adopting a more agile process.
The key benefit of moving quickly in your acquisition integrations is the trust you establish with the people you are acquiring. For AUS, their business is all about their people since they depend on the skills and expertise of their installation and service technicians to run successfully. Most companies can relate to this -- losing skilled employees can significantly reduce the value of your acquisition. That is why it is so important to move quickly and communicate effectively with employees. The more transparent you are, and the more efficiently you integrate your new teams, the more support you will have from the acquired company.
In order to accelerate this process, you need a scalable platform up front. Cloud technologies provide a foundation for scalability and growth. With the right technology in place, your teams can focus on absorbing companies into your platforms, while building constructive processes to align the organization and support your growing business requirements.
You likely won’t get everything integrated flawlessly right out of the gate, no matter how fast or slow you decide to move, but focusing on the key drivers and understanding that tradeoffs are inevitable in every integration will help you be more successful. The key is to communicate clearly and make fast decisions confidently.
2. Execute Flexibly
When determining who to acquire, AUS prioritizes companies with good market share and those that are in an industry or area where they are looking to grow. While these companies are positioned well and are ripe for expansion, the existing processes, culture, and data often present challenges for corporate integration. Flexibility is key when executing on your integration plan.
Identifying a playbook with 10-15 key milestones that are laid out and understood ahead of time is a strategy that has worked effectively for AUS. Once the plan is in place and the work begins, flexibility helps the business uncover and adapt to unique areas about the acquired company and how it should prioritize different integration steps. Certain areas of the playbook get easier with time, while others may present challenges, such as transitioning people or making decisions about technology. It is important to remember that this playbook acts as a guidepost and not as a rule.
Understanding different potential roadblocks can help you be better prepared in managing various situations. In addition, communicating issues to key stakeholders and partners as soon as they emerge, and making clear requests based on the level of importance and urgency of different tasks, can help you align expectations across the company. Staying flexible, transparent, and organized will help you reach your integration and systems go-live targets better.
3. Partner Strategically
Prior to your acquisition taking place, it is beneficial to work with a trusted advisor or strategic solutions partner who understands your goals, long-term vision, and possible constraints (i.e. budget, timelines, volume of data, access to data, quality of data, etc.). This process can help determine applicable models and resources that you can leverage to increase the speed of your acquisition integrations. While your partner should be familiar with a standardized integration process, it is important that they understand your business and can easily adapt to any changes in your requirements.
When choosing a partner, make sure that they have worked in your industry, have credibility in managing similar businesses, and can be trusted to do the job well. While technology experience is a critical component, the application of that technology and how they use those tools to overcome your business problems is a key driver in accelerating your integration process.
An important success factor of AUS’ integration strategy has been their trusted relationship with VistaVu Solutions. For AUS, VistaVu acts as a consultant that advises the team on diverse systems, emerging technologies, and what processes need to be created to accommodate a particular acquisition. VistaVu helps AUS manage questions such as -- Does the technology need to be reconfigured? Adapted? What is the best way to transfer the data? Who needs to be involved?
Working as an extension to the AUS team, VistaVu provides flexible and experienced staffing that can grow and shrink to easily support AUS as they continue with their acquisition strategy.
AUS has mastered the art of accelerating acquisition integrations with nine acquisitions over the last four years. The approach they have taken -- to move quickly, execute flexibly, and partner strategically --has served them well. The company has significantly increased their market share and has become the leader in their industry.
If you have any questions on how you can accelerate your acquisition integrations, please reach out to VistaVu.
To watch the recorded PERT webinar ‘Accelerating Acquisition Integrations | Best Practices from Allied Universal’, click here.