Aligning cultures through a merger

Situation  

Hudgell Solicitors supports clients who have experienced injury, accidents or medical negligence by providing legal advice, care and seeking financial compensation to protect their clients future. The provision of a high level of customer service sits at the heart of the Hudgell culture.  

An opportunity arose to acquire a significant competitor, thereby almost doubling the size of the business. At the same time, Hudgell’s managing director identified the need to reduce his focus on the day-to-day running of the business in order to give more time to strategic growth and long-term development.  

Against this backdrop an upcoming change of regulation was being seen as having the potential to significantly affect future fee income and profitability.  

The Desired Outcome 

Hudgell Solicitors knew that if the acquisition was to be successful, priority had to be given to a cultural integration. However, they also saw the acquisition as a chance to review and strengthen the culture of the overall business so they could continue to deliver client excellence in a changing marketplace. 

Objective  

  • To work with the senior team on the acquisition deal and immediate integration of the two businesses.  
  • To assess the cultures of the 2 entities and evaluate cultural alignment in order to ensure that the integration went smoothly. 
  • To design new cultural foundations in the form of Mission and Values 
  • To fully embed the new culture  
  • To evaluate and upskill the Leadership Team  

 Success criteria for the integration of the two businesses included: everyone being treated with fairness and respect (including any staff who ultimately left the organisation); providing clarity to people as soon as feasible; overall staff engagement levels maintained post integration; no cases appearing in court for employment tribunal; customer service levels maintained; productivity levels kept at >85% pre-announcement levels and no regulatory issues caused by the integration.  

Approach  

We used our 3 Stage Approach to work with the senior team on the integration and subsequent embedding of a new culture 

Insight

The immediate priority was on a review  and cultural assessment of the 2 merging entities to evaluate how aligned they were and to identify the key differing business and people practices between the two businesses which would need to be resolved as  part of the integration phase; highlighting any enablers and blockers we identified.  

Design 

Using our Culture Design Process and working alongside the SMT, we developed a new mission and values which were used to inform the rebrand of the overall business. The integration approach was then developed based on the new values and a ‘Best of Both’ philosophy – taking what each entity was good at and using it across the board; this enabled a smooth integration. We rolled out a robust communications plan to keep everyone engaged and informed.  

Key to the success of this initial integration phase was the identification of how the newly acquired staff would map into the operating model. This included running the HR processes for mapping people into roles and supporting the assessment exercise.  

Embed

We then led the overall cultural alignment activity, with a view to embedding the newly defined mission and values into every aspect of the business. Communication was key to delivering a successful alignment. However, as with any culture change programme, the importance of ensuring a successful integration within areas such as processes, supplier relationships and performance management should not be underestimated.  

Successful alignment only comes through strong employee engagement so active two way communication and engagement activities were put in place.  

Finally, in order to enable the MD to refocus his energies we worked with the senior management team in order to redefine roles, responsibilities and decision making accountability with a view to meeting the priorities and targets identified within the new business plan. This included developing personal leadership skills and capabilities in areas such as financial/commercial awareness and team leadership.  

Results  

The initial identification and integration work has enabled the acquisition to be completed in a quick time-frame and has enabled key financial and legal risks to be mitigated.  

The senior management team are taking more responsibility not only for the day-to-day running of the business but also taking ownership of its future success through their behaviour and outlook.  

This in turn has enabled the MD to relinquish day-to-day responsibilities in order to focus further on strategic development whilst also preparing them for the upcoming regulatory changes.  

The attention paid to communication and engagement has also proved successful with the latest engagement scores showing 4.7 out of 6. Customer service levels have been improved overall with clients awarding an average rating of 9.1 out of 10.  

Productivity levels kept at >85% pre-announcement levels during the integration and fortunately, no regulatory issues were caused by the integration. 

Testimonial 

“Following the acquisition of a competitor we engaged Culture Consultancy to work with myself and the senior management team to bring together the 2 companies into one business – one culture.  They led us through an exercise to develop a new mission and set of values which encapsulated the core ethos of who we are as a business.   

The subsequent implementation plan is now embedding this newly designed culture into all aspects of our business, effectively engaging and developing our people through the changes, including the development of the senior management team.  

The Culture Consultancy team have demonstrated a very pragmatic and flexible, yet commercial approach to the project, in a style that works really well for people at all levels within our business – often feeling like they were actually part of our own team.  They have been one (or more) steps ahead – often identifying and solving problems before they arose.  They consistently deliver on their promises and have kept us very well informed throughout.”

Neil Hudgell 

Managing Director, Hudgell Solicitors