If you are a consultant or freelancer, you’re likely to encounter client acquisitions and mergers especially if you work in the technology sector. I frequently partner with start-ups, so it’s commonplace for my clients to be purchased by larger organizations. At last count, 20 of my clients have been acquired within the last eight years. Even so, when those big M&A announcements first hit the wires, I always get a sinking feeling in my stomach as I ponder my unknown.Will my invoices get paid promptly or will they fall into an accounting abyss? Will my main contact continue working with the new company, or will she be let go? And most important, will the new company need my services going forward or will I lose the client altogether?
After recovering from the initial shock of the news, it’s time to make a game plan so that you move forward confidently. Here are a few key steps that I follow during this important transition time.
- Don’t panic.
Remember, most acquisitions don’t occur immediately. It’s going to take time for the deal to close and the final dust to settle. Now more than ever, your client needs a calm, third-party contributor who can keep “heads down” and get real work accomplished during this time of uncertainty.
- Promptly reach out to your main contacts.
Even if you’re not currently working on a project with your client, pick up the phone or send an email. Acknowledge the announcement and most of all, listen! It shows your concern for their well-being. Sometimes we all just need another human being at the other end of the phone line.
- Make yourself more available.
It depends on the logistics and timing of the deal, but it may be in your best interest to take on a second project with the client or put in more hours during the transition. I’ve found that clients who are going through acquisitions often need to outsource some of their day-to-day work as they’re put on new strategic initiatives. If you have the extra time, do it!
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Right now there’s so much going on internally that your contact may lose track of all of your project details. Communicate the scope of work, key milestones, deadlines, etc. And then repeat, as needed. This frequent communication trail is especially critical as the date of takeover gets closer. If your contact leaves abruptly, you’ll want this information documented so that you get paid.
- Get to know the new company’s business.
Set aside additional time to learn about the new company’s core business. Listen to on-demand conference calls, download white papers, read recent press coverage, etc. and ask intelligent questions about what they do. It shows your initiative to work with the new company and be a valuable virtual team member.
- When appropriate, ask to be introduced to new management and team members.
If you want to improve your chances of working with the new company, you need to be assertive and make your intentions known. Offer to visit the office and give a 15-minute introductory presentation so everyone knows who you are. In order words, treat the new company just as you would a new prospect.
- Stay in contact.
Don’t let them forget you! If you have a good relationship with your contacts from the old company, get their personal emails and cell phone numbers. If they jump ship or are unexpectedly laid off, you want to maintain the working relationship wherever they go. It’s just good business sense.