Mid-market acquisitions can be sticky affairs, especially when they happen fast. Companies are often asked to reassess their org charts and merge into existing workflows, or even physically move offices and disrupt daily work. Endless meet-and-greets with new stakeholders threaten a smooth transition. Having to worry about your CRM introduces an additional, particularly annoying wrinkle.
There are arguments for and against having a newly acquired company migrate over to the parent company's CRM. In the short term, it makes sense to maintain business as usual, even if, for the moment, the acquirer and acquiree are running on different systems. This requires minimal new training and allows for some momentum before larger changes need to occur. But, in the interest of long-term health, unifying companies under a single CRM enables organization-wide visibility and data analysis, and ensures high levels of security.
Problem is, companies are often keen on making numerous changes all at once, in this case after a merger or acquisition, but rarely later on, when the cost to business might be too high. Hence, they may mandate migration at an early stage, causing more disruption to daily workflows.
A successful merger or acquisition requires carrying on with business as usual, and a synchronized deployment and adoption of a singular CRM is the key to ensuring long-term sustainability and consistency.
In early 2022, Purolite, a chemical manufacturing company specializing in resin-based purification and extraction, found themselves with a dilemma. They had recently been acquired by Ecolab, an industry giant in water filtration processes, and after a brief period of transition, their new parent company was asking them to leave Zoho CRM and adopt the system already in place.
Amanda Riddle, CRM Integrations Manager at Purolite, insisted that they keep on with business as usual. For one thing, she had already demonstrated that Purolite's CRM could provide robust visibility into past and present operations, and how new workflows and reporting structures were quickly and seamlessly implemented across the organization. Most importantly, Riddle feels a change would have been too disruptive on sales, undermining the very reason Ecolab was interested in Purolite from the start.
In two years, Ecolab and Purolite will revisit the decision to keep the companies on disparate systems. They'll be approaching the decision from a place of strength. But had Purolite been forced to migrate away from its CRM too quickly, daily work would largely have had to cease when issues arose or if training had been needed, and the company is grateful for the runway they were provided to operate business-as-usual instead.
Once an acquired company has found its sea legs after a merger, parent companies need to start looking ahead to how a unified, singular CRM can elevate business moving forward. Shiji Group, a 5,000 person IT company in the hospitality space, found themselves making this consideration after a number of acquisitions required them to seek consistency across disparate business units. Under multiple CRMs, the company was having trouble keeping tabs on what its recent acquisitions were up to, and this was throwing off the larger sales team, who required visibility to proceed.
Shiji could have implemented a short-term solution — one or two apps shared across acquisitions — but, instead, they focused on one that would scale as the company grew, in both size and its ability to handle the complexity presented by managing numerous international workforces. In addition, the company boasted a 20 year history of custom solutions for its customers, so this centralized CRM needed to handle all sorts of information and requests.
Shiji ultimately chose Zoho due to its ability to customize the solution on a granular level. Shiji's acquisitions ranged industries, they could deploy at custom scale. This was also going to be a time of uncertainty, and Shiji expected there to be an evolution to their CRM as acquisitions adapted to the new normal. Hiring a larger vendor such as Salesforce, they felt, would include too many agents in the middle gumming up the works when changes needed to be made quickly.
The Streaming Network
Once a parent company and its new acquisitions drive alignment by running on the same CRM, it becomes possible to produce a shared roadmap. The Streaming Network, a virtual events and webinar platform, was founded more than a decade ago but found itself rapidly growing when COVID-19 necessitated that most live events move online.
The company grew from $5 million to $10 million in only two years. After a series of acquisitions, including three inside of a 12-month span, the company realized that its scattershot, multi-CRM configuration was no longer tenable.
For one thing, communication between systems was rudimentary. Throughout a seven touch sales process, teams were tracking progress within an unwieldy and cumbersome Excel spreadsheet containing thousands of client names. Worse still, different customers required dissimilar types of invoices, and it was becoming impossible to ensure the right type went to the right customer, let alone keep tabs on incoming payments.
With the visibility afforded by a central CRM, anyone within The Streaming Network, regardless of division, can see the status of every customer and tweak sales tactics accordingly. This includes the use of automation to follow up with leads or escalate a support claim to a supervisor. Without the need to micromanage, The Streaming Network executives can focus on growth while the individual business units carry on as usual regardless of where they are located or what stage of the process they oversee.
It's about timing
For businesses looking to consolidate, even when motivated by cost reduction, rushing the target company into learning and using new systems can backfire, slowing sales from the disruption. At the same time, letting acquisitions run on their old CMS for too long dampens any efforts to assimilate new businesses into established corporate culture. Allow, at least in the short term, the newly acquired business to function as it has, with the tools they already use, and slowly transition them onto org-wide tools, which allow for cross app services like AI and analytics to span the entire portfolio.