- Under: Agency Life
On Integration: Thoughts from Leadership
In the weeks since we announced our acquisition by experience-driven technology company, ByteCubed, leadership has been busy working behind the scenes to figure out just what our integrated company will look like. From focus groups and surveys, to offsites and all day strategic planning sessions—integrating two firms with their own unique processes and cultures is daunting to say the least. But with uncertainty comes opportunity, and by putting in the work now we’re going to be that much stronger together.
So what’s the team think….integration: tedious or thrilling? We caught up with a few members of our Leadership Team to get their takes on the integration process—including exciting updates and minor mishaps. We promise it won’t be all rainbows and butterflies.
Lena Trudeau, CEO
My philosophy to integration? It’s all about people. At the end of the day, people want to know they work at a company that cares about them and values their contributions. That means involving them in the process as major decisions are made. For us, that meant sharing up front that we hadn’t actually made all of the decisions before hand. On the plus side, it’s given people a voice, fostered a lot of engagement and is helping to ensure we develop shared values. On the downside, it can lead to uncertainty in the near term about where we’re headed.
To minimize the disruption, we’ve maintained aggressive integration timelines so we can put this behind us quickly. But, there’s a real tension between moving quickly and getting it right. We’ve defaulted to taking small steps very quickly, and created a governance process built on transparency and accountability. For every aspect of the integration (culture, people, strategy, operations, delivery) there’s an accountable executive who oversees a small tiger team.
We’ve also invested in areas of critical importance, like the benefits we provide for our people. We made the decision early on to bring everyone up to the high water mark, rather than simply grandfathering folks who enjoyed better benefits. That generated a lot of trust and excitement about what’s in it for everyone on the team. You simply can’t put a price on that.
Carlyle Davis, Chief Technology Officer
The last 10 weeks have been a combination of impressive, exciting and revolutionary. We're not just integrating two firms but bringing something totally new to market. By stitching together distinct capabilities, we're creating something that nobody else is offering in the way we plan to.
At the same time, there’s always that fear. We want to move quickly, but do it well. These are not light decisions and we need to put right thought behind them. This thoughtfulness is counterbalanced by a healthy dose of impatience—a “let's attack the hill” type of excitement. So we’re making swift but deliberate decisions that may not be the right moves forever, but they give our team enough for people to say “yes, that makes sense”. This level of buy-in helps ease the discomfort of change, and lets people know we're not leaving anyone behind.
On the point about excitement: I will say that everyday feels like Christmas. Our two firms keep finding out something new about each other's business and culture. A capability we didn't know one had, or a problem another has the right people to solve. That doesn't mean we don't have work to do. We recognize that, for the most part, our teams have been working independently and that needs to change. It takes more than just leadership saying "we're united"—we have live it in the work we do and the ways we collaborate. That’s our next challenge to solve.
Chris Lester, Chief Creative Officer
The fortune cookie didn’t lie, it said, “Look with favor on a bold beginning.” When that fortune found its way to me at our last company lunch, there were plenty of questions and concerns about how we were going to bring our companies together. The melding of two firms to create something radically new has not been easy. It’s an ambitious challenge. This level of change is unsettling—there’s no quick or easy process to defining our strategic direction or our approach to delivery. But as things settle, the promise of what lays ahead has become clearer to everyone.
The best part? The energy felt from being a part of something where everyone shares the same aspiration and is working toward making it a reality. No one is stopping us from realizing our potential. It’s up to us— sky’s the limit.
Mike Royer, Chief Financial Officer
One of the most rewarding and simultaneously most challenging aspects of my experience with the integration has been developing strategies for merging two companies with potent individual identities—how can we bring a creative agency and technical firm together in the most seamless way possible? What can we do to make 1+1 =3?
Despite the inevitable challenge of bringing two entities together, the opportunities this partnership presents are far more promising than the difficulties along the way that may be intrusive—and I am thrilled about the potential our combined capabilities introduce. We want to be that company that is nimble and agile enough to offer things that others can’t, even those that have similar structures to us, and we should have that opportunity thanks to our creativity, knowledge base and tools we’ve developed. I see great market penetration opportunities.
Anuj Vedak, VP Strategy & Operations
There is something incredibly exciting and invigorating about this rebirth. It's cathartic in many ways as we have an opportunity to build on two great legacies, fix things that need fixing, but still start with a blank canvas. It's truly an amazing opportunity.
It can also overwhelm you if you let it. No way around it, integrations are just plain hard. They're full of hard decisions, hard planning and extremely hard work to get over the finish line. You have to constantly question everything. We are tackling every piece of our business from "What does our PTO policy look like?" to "What is our new org structure?" to "What is our company even going to be named?"...and every question in between. Sometimes it can seem like for every answer we deliver, ten new questions pop up.
But that's when it's important to remind ourselves why we are doing this. Thank goodness we have such a clear vision for what we can be together and why this merger makes sense. If you have a clear vision and desired outcome, there is far more than one pathway to success. And each pathway has room for error. Most importantly, thank goodness we have a 250 well-intentioned teammates who want to be part of something bigger and put our company's success first. That mentality and support ensures we're focused on big picture progress rather than fixating on every specific decision point.
In short: this is hard work, but fulfilling work!
Thanks to the team for their candor, and their continued efforts keeping us updated on the integration decisions and the direction of our new firm. Ever been through an uneasy transition yourself? Share your thoughts with us on social.