Every month we focus on different topics aimed at leadership development. This month, our theme is change management and how leaders can effectively navigate the unknown when implementing change. Understanding the challenges of evaluating sellers along with onboarding new staff and customers is top-of-mind for many business leaders. We sat down with TEC member Jay Swayze, Founder and CEO of bluArc who in 2018 acquired telecommunications company About Communications, to discuss his success in the acquisition process.
TEC Canada: Can you share with us how you managed the acquisition process with About Communications?
Jay Swayze: Our first focus was making a conscious effort from the beginning to not change anything right away. We also understood the importance of communication and getting to know the employees; myself, our COO and CTO met with numerous employees to introduce ourselves and listen to any of their concerns. Getting the About Communications employees immersed in our culture and interacting with their peers was the next focus – we made sure they were comfortable working side by side their new colleagues as opposed to working alone.
TC: Was the acquisition of About Communications your first as CEO of bluArc? What lessons/areas of growth did you take away from this?
JS: This was my first acquisition as CEO of an organization and I learned the importance of not making any assumptions. Specifically, I was mindful not to assume economies of scale and that this acquisition would have a drastic impact in the short-term. We’ve seen success from it – it’s grown our top and bottom-line by roughly 15% – however we are now approaching two years since we acquired About Communications.
When it came to my TEC group, we talked a lot about unproductive stress among new employees – worrying about other people’s job, cutting each other down for promotions – anything outside of their control. I received tremendous insight from my TEC group about how to address employee concerns and ensure they were focused on the tasks in front of them.
TC: What are some main concerns you had prior to the acquisition and how did you handle them?
JS: In any major decision, there is always the risk of the unknown – even though we did our due diligence and planned ahead, you wonder ‘how is this going to work out?’ One of the areas that question led us to is customer onboarding. Similar to when we brought employees onboard, we were once again conscious not to make drastic changes when it came to dealing with new customers as their new vendor and service provider. In this stage, as an organization, our main areas of focus were on stability and reliability.
TC: What mistakes do you often see (or read about) that leaders make in the acquisition process?
JS: With any business, you look at the business case and find what the acquisition can do from a spreadsheet perspective and make assumptions there. Assumptions can be dangerous as you aren’t factoring in what you don’t know.
I think many leaders also don’t understand the importance of culture within an organization; it’s under-valued and under-planned. When you’re going through this transition of acquiring another organization and bringing on new people, you need to make sure they’re right for the company and its future. In my interactions with my TEC group, culture was heavily stressed to make the acquisition process as smooth as possible. At bluArc we’ve found this to be the case as we’ve onboarded half of the staff from the acquisition.
BluArc provides services in hosted business phone, multi-location, internet, remote office, business continuity and conference calling. In June 2018, they acquired Toronto telecommunications company About Communications allowing them to expand their market-share while continuing to deliver on customer-centric promises. BluArc, like About Communications, is heavily focused on customer satisfaction for their 25,000 subscribers.