Last week we integrated the Redwood brand into Timico. Redwood was a specialist Unified Communications business we acquired last year.
There are two different ways of integrating another business. You can do it well or you can do it badly. There are also two different speeds. I recall that Cisco, a company that has made many acquisitions in its time, has a defined process with dedicated teams to do the job. On day one they change the acquired brand to Cisco and then there are well rehearsed steps over a period of three months or so until all aspects of the old brand are erased. No doubt a few people get erased at the same time although companies like Cisco are known to buy small technology businesses just to acquire the talent.
It’s no different in our game really. We bought Redwood for a combination of channel to market and the talent of their people. However the nature of our business is different to a product manufacturer such as Cisco. Our customers largely buy services from us and they buy them on a recurring basis. Every month. The other thing to note is that the services they buy from us are by and large mission critical to their business.
We love all our customers. They pay our wages. We do our best to keep them happy so that they want to keep on paying our wages. The last thing we want to do is upset them. Now in the networking game the time of greatest risk is when something changes. A small config change here can have big ramifications there. A kind of butterfly effect for business. So we want to be very careful when we make changes.
The same applies when you change a brand. When integrating company not only are you changing the look of a business but you are potentially changing the way it feels to do business with you. People don’t like change so you have to do it carefully.
When integrating Redwood we want Redwood’s customers to feel as if things are working just as well as they were in the good old days when they were dealing with Redwood as opposed to this new company called Timico that they might never have heard of. We might in our ever so optimistic dreams dare to hope that Redwood customers will think things are even better than they were before though we would settle for them thinking things were just same. “Name change? Oh ok that’s fine” is the reaction we want.
What we don’t want is “What’s gone wrong with my bill. Why have you charged me twice? Where has Fred gone? Fred always used to sort out my problem. It was never like this when it was Redwood”.
That’s why we like to take time over the integration of an acquisition. We want to make sure it goes well. The telecommunications industry abounds with stories of market consolidation and company acquisitions that have gone wrong. We love it actually because it generates churn in a company’s customer base and someone else’s churn is our sales opportunity. I even heard of one highly acquisitive business whose business plan assumed a 30% churn in customers post acquisition. That’s not how we like to work.
If my memory serves me right we have bought seven companies in nearly ten years of doing business. We have learnt a few lessons along the way but our general principle is that we want to build a business of real value to all our stakeholders. That means real value to shareholders, staff and of course customers. We want to keep every single customer. That’s a difficult objective in a highly competitive market where competitors sometimes not only drop their pants to win a deal but run naked down a customer’s drive shouting “I won’t put my clothes back on until you give me the business”.
I’m pleased to say the integration of Redwood has gone very well. Customers have had time to get used to the idea and all were contacted well in advance to let them know about the new name. It’s felt like business as usual throughout the whole process.
That isn’t to say there wasn’t a huge amount of work going on in the background. Integration of CRM and billing systems for example. Lots of testing before D Day. We had a few IT glitches along the way but nothing that was customer affecting and the team worked really hard to get it all sorted.
Funnily enough when I asked the one of the Redwood team how it went the answer was “boringly not much to say really.” That’s a great answer. The right answer.
Winning new customers is just about the hardest thing to do in our game. It’s a lot easier to sell to someone with who you already have a trusted relationship. Now Redwood Timico Unified Communications has a whole new existing customer base to sell to. Customers who already trust Timico with their mission critical services. Exciting really. Welcome aboard guys. We appreciate you and value your contribution 🙂
PS sorry if I come across very emulsional there. It happens sometimes 🙂