QA Revolution

An Acquisition Destroyed Our Company Culture

201401_blog_howtofixyourcultureifitbreaks_1Years ago, I worked for a small company in Louisiana with an amazing company culture.  It was a relatively small successful company that had been established in Rural America.  The owners came from humble beginnings where a handshake or exchange of eggs and chickens helped to pay for telephone service.  Long gone are those days.

I was lucky to be given an opportunity to be blessed to meet some amazing people.  My wife, kids and I called Louisiana home and we still have some very fond memories.  I was able to grow my career and gain increased responsibility over the period of 7 years.  The company continued to grow and people worked hard to help build a successful organization.  There were a few opportunities that the board room pursued to acquired companies.  Two of those acquisitions yielded successful company culture integration and I was grateful to meet some new colleagues and friends.

The culture was one of open doors, small meetings, and close community.  There were certainly challenges along the way, but people were treated with respect and the company had corporate integrity.  Even though the second acquisition had expanded the corporate footprint into Kansas people had many of the same core values and importance of corporate integrity.  A spoken word and a handshake still meant something.  The corporate jet stayed busier trying to keep the lines of communication open.  There were jobs lost during the second acquisition as systems were integrated, yet people understood the need for those changes to occur.

The third acquisition was perhaps the most difficult and from what I hear still remains a thorn in the company’s previous corporate culture.  I ended up coming into work and closing my office door and staying on the phone for 9 hours in back to back meetings.  There was little time for personal interaction and other people did the same being tied to their phones all day.  The conference rooms became ghost towns and people interacted less on a personal level.  The organization went through significant change and there was constant reorganizations which required individuals to prove themselves over and over again.  Smiles became frowns and you could tell the significant impact it was having on company culture.  The company knew it was in trouble and hired someone to address the corporate culture issue with little change on the problem.  Trust, which was a strong corporate trait of the corporate culture was gone and many people who had worked their for many years either retired or went to find different work.  It look less than 18 months for a company culture to be permanently destroyed.

I decided it was time to move on shortly after another painful reorganization. I had a manager for the the acquired company that understood very little about the company in Louisiana and understood even less about the group she took over.  I finally was broken with sadness because I would end up having to move from a place that my family and I had grown to cherish over the years.  I learned that I couldn’t always trust what someone said and they didn’t always have the best interest of the company in mind.

I hope you are able to work for a company where company culture really matters and where a handshake and someone’s word really means something.  There is a good lesson learned out of this and I will always cherish the culture that once was on the small company locate on Louisiana’s bayou.  In Louisiana, a handshake and someone’s word still means something.

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Ron Wilson