Paul J. Siegenthaler

My work with consultants

To effectively support the Client's integration and provide maximum value, advisors and consultants need access to a cross-functional, accountable person in the Client company with prior M&A experience. But does that company have such an individual within its ranks?

Are we allies or competitors ?

When I join an organisation to plan, prepare and drive a business integration, some people ask me how a consultant can manage other consultants. The short answer is that I do not consider myself to be a consultant, but rather a senior interim executive. The difference is not semantic. As an interim, I am a member of the Client’s team - albeit on a provisional basis - with a clear mandate to conduct the integration and be accountable for its successful outcome. I blend into the Client company, adopt their ways of working, their vocabulary, their dress code, their house rules and T&E guidelines.

That said, I do not subscribe to the notion of a “Client’s side” and “consultants’ side”, since the only way to generate value, build knowledge and realise sustainable benefits is for all parties to work hand-in-hand. There needs to be a spirit of active collaboration. So whilst my presence in the Client company is of obvious value to the Client as my focus and accountability for the integration allows the rest of the Executive team to concentrate primarily on running the day to day business, it is also a valuable help to the external advisors and consultants as no time is spent explaining and convincing the Client of what needs to be done, how, when and why it is important. Instead, work can progress with a Client company embarking on its first major acquisition in the same way as it would with a business that it fully accustomed to this kind of activity.

The benefit of neutrality

First-timers systematically underestimate the time, resource and effort that will be required to integrate the business they are about to acquire. In fact, when deciding on the amount of resource that needs to be allocated to the integration programme, most Client companies feel they cannot trust their “trusted advisors”, the simple reason being that they will suspect their advisors’ estimates to be over-inflated as it would be in the latter’s interest so sell-in (and invoice) the largest possible team.

This, perversely, leads to many companies opting for the other extreme, unknowingly under-resourcing their team, and inevitably hitting insurmountable hurdles along their integration journey which is most likely to end up in failure.

My presence and experience within the Client’s team allows resource estimates to be made in a balanced way, with greater objectivity: I have nothing to gain by inflating the number of external resources and indeed need to manage costs within the integration budget. Conversely, I will not allow the programme to be compromised by being under-resourced or poorly supported as my professional reputation rests on delivering successful PMIs. Clients understand this and trust my judgement as being neutral; it defuses any suspicion that they are being swamped by costly external resources. This clears the path for the open, trusting and collaborative relationship between the Client and the consultants required to lead the business integration to a successful conclusion.

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Lack of Resources
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