AMN Healthcare Services CEO Susan Salka says its most recent acquisition of Medfinders is going “exceptionally well.” She believes the acquisition has strengthened its position as the country’s largest health care staffing company, leading to a doubling of fill rates, keeping more services “in-house”, and helping win more business. She’s pleased because AMN’s customers, leadership and team members now see the benefits of the merger for their businesses and for themselves.
This success did not come without hard work and careful planning. The steps Salka and her team took provide insight into how to use the time before the deal closing to jump-start learning and relationships. Salka built success on a foundation of improved customer service and three priorities:
- Early conversations with all;
- A well-resourced Integration Management office;
- Staying close to the process.
Salka and her lieutenants had early conversations with AMN’s investors and laid out the benefits to its clients and the company culture. Then she spent significant time aligning the combined leadership team, investing heavily in planning and communication between the announcement and the close, and then bringing the combined sales leadership together right after the close. As Salka explained to me,
Investing in planning and communication up front … so we could have as many decisions made and ready to communicate as possible…That clarity and decisiveness created a lot of trust and reduced anxiety.
Integration Management Office
A merger is not business as usual. AMN established and resourced an Integration Management Office to give it a real-time view of how things were going. As a result, they knew:
- What they were accomplishing and getting done;
- How they were progressing towards their target of adding $10 million in EBITDA;
- How well we were keeping team members motivated and inspired.
Salka learned the importance of communicating with everyone at a personal level to get at their expectations, hopes and fears. It’s not good enough to keep tabs on what’s going on; leaders must show up. As Salka puts it, you need a management process:
But even more important than that is to be out in the field listening, listening, listening to the team members, to our customers. Because you can hear one thing in a meeting and see it on paper, but if the reality or the perception is different out in the field, whether it be at one of our offices or with a customer, then what’s on paper doesn’t really matter…You just can’t spend enough time out in front of your team members listening – and sharing!
This is a good example of Step 4 of The New Leader’s Playbook for Acquisitions: Embrace and Leverage the Fuzzy Front End Before the Close.
The time between knowing you’re going to do the acquisition and the deal closing is a gift you can use to get a head start on positioning the acquired leader and team for success. Our experience has shown that those who use this fuzzy front end to put a plan in place, complete their pre-start preparation, and jump-start learning and relationships as much as possible while working towards a deal close, are far more likely to deliver better results faster than those who choose to rest and relax. Five important steps:
- Identify the most important stakeholders up, across, and down – both inside and out.
- Plan your message, fuzzy front end, and first 100-days.
- Manage any personal setup for yourself and any people you’re dropping in so you all have less to worry about after you or they start.
- Conduct pre-start meetings and phone calls as possible to jump-start important relationships.
- Gather information and learning in advance to jump-start learning, partly by talking to as many as you can at different levels of the acquired organization. They generally know truth and