Paul J. Siegenthaler
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 Clients 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 Clients 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 latters 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 Clients 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.