It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since Yodle acquired ProfitFuel. As the founder and former CEO of ProfitFuel and now as a member of the Yodle executive team, people often ask me about the wild ride leading up to the acquisition and what’s happened since.
Although you often hear stories in the media about nightmare acquisitions, I can confidently state that the Yodle-ProfitFuel integration has been a homerun and that the new Yodle is in a great position. So how did we get such great results? Here, in my opinion, were the important factors:
- Compatibility of corporate culture and management vision
- Strengths and weaknesses of the two companies having minimal overlap
- Effective planning and execution after the deal
Now let’s talk about all of these things in a little more detail.
Key factors for identifying a successful partner
“Partner” really is the key word. Even if your company is being acquired, you should still view yourself as a partner to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. Beyond that, there are several key factors that should come into play when considering whether two companies can successfully combine.
It’s critical for the two companies to have a similar culture and set of values otherwise it’s almost impossible to successfully assimilate. Yodle and ProfitFuel had a common approach to areas such as how management cares for its employees, the data-driven and results-oriented way in which we both approached the marketplace to always get the best possible outcome for our customers, and highly productive and efficient sales forces.
There also has to be mutual respect and honesty. The executive teams from both companies need to communicate well with each other, have a shared vision and be upfront about strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is ultimately going to work together and it’s critical for there to be strong chemistry between the leadership. I recall some great conversations that I had with Yodle CEO Court Cunningham that immediately put me at ease about the leadership and direction of the new Yodle.
At the same time, both companies obviously shouldn’t just be carbon-copies of one another. They should instead be complements and have the ability to fill in the other one’s gaps. Yodle had previously offered a strong SEM solution at relatively mid-level and high price points. Adding ProfitFuel’s low cost SEO product has resulted in the company having a comprehensive online marketing solution to better address a fuller spectrum of local businesses.
What to do once things get serious
Besides all the legalities, signing paperwork, etc., a clear roadmap needs to be put in place to ensure that the newly formed company gets off to a running start.
Talk through every part of both businesses and figure out how best to combine personnel, functions and departments. Then determine what the timeline and priorities will be around these areas once the acquisition is officially completed.
It’s also imperative to have a communications plan in place. Only select people should be told on a “need to know” basis during the initial stages of an acquisition but it’s important to determine how best to position and communicate the news to employees at both companies once the deal is final.
Ensuring success moving forward
Immediately following the official completion of the acquisition, give as much information as possible to all employees. Be open and provide clear timelines around everything that is going to happen to minimize any potential concerns. Also humanize the situation. The entire Yodle executive team visited the ProfitFuel office in Austin the day after I announced the news to the staff. Their positive demeanor showed everyone that this was an exciting change.
The next step is to then move forward with important action items to fully integrate the two companies. Don’t expect everything to happen overnight but the key is to bring together the best of both worlds from the two companies, establishing universal practices and meshing the teams together. We did things ranging from establishing uniformity of HR policies and benefits to implementing sales best practices.
You can pull best practices across all departments during the early days of a merge because you usually have distinct teams that are not drinking each other’s “Kool-Aid”. For example, the Yodle and ProfitFuel management teams were objective about historical customer performance data. This allowed the overall new team to make a leap forward at a much faster pace and quickly combine performance data on SEO and SEM best practices so that all of our customers could benefit.
Change can be scary but embracing it often leads to a great end result. That is particularly true when you take the time to ensure you have a good fit to begin with and that all of the detailed planning leads to excellent execution. A year later, I feel very good about where Yodle is and am excited about what’s still to come.