13 things I wish I knew when my agency was acquired
Important things to remember during a time of immense change
Hi, I’m Alec McNayr. Welcome to my vulnerable and humorous takes on creativity, business, and life, made especially for leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs.
In 2015, Fullscreen acquired my agency, McBeard. Here are some things I wish I had known then.
You’re going to have a boss. For the first time in many years. Figure out how to "report up." Here's a tip: share what you're GOING to do, not what you HAVE done. Future, not past. That's key.
The "us vs them" mentality of your team (and the acquiring company's team) is natural but needs to be addressed and tended to daily. Daily!
Don't be too serious. It's easy to be serious. Your acquirer has *expectations.* But a creative company needs fun in the bloodstream. You set the tone, the atmosphere. Whether you're in charge or not (and you're no longer in charge, sorry), you're the CFO - the Chief Fun Officer.
Some of your favorite people won't be happy with the acquisition, and will leave because of it, but that's OK. It's not personal. The new thing just isn't their thing. We're all on a journey.
Everyone knows you made some money. You don't have to pretend. Know that no one is too stressed about it. Most will be happy for you, if you're nice and continue to care for them and their careers.
Related, don't buy a Lambo. Don't be that guy. Get a nice pair of Jordans and call it a day. No one wants to hear rich guy probs like, "Oh no! My Pro Pickleball team made the playoffs, but I don't know which Range Rover to take to the owners’ gala!"
You made educated guesses about your agency's future potential and painted yourself in the best light through the acquisition process. Guess what? Your acquiring company did the same. Don't be mad if things don't go as planned, but do have real conversations about expectations. You'll have more conversations on this topic than you thought you'd need to have.
As you can tell, you'll have A LOT more internal conversations than you did before. About policies. Culture. Finances. Dashboards. You'll barely have time to, you know, do the work that made your agency attractive in the first place! Raise up leaders faster than you would have otherwise.
Your agency expenses change from being YOUR money (ie, felt responsibility and frugality) to being "the Company's" money (ie, not yours). Be ready to figure out your acquirer's cultural appetite for risk-taking and investing in new opportunities. Plan to spend accordingly (it's probably more than you're used to!).
Hire a tax accountant. A really, really good tax accountant.
When the news of your acquisition hits the trades, it’s like you’re Kevin Bacon and every wealth manager is six degrees away but inching closer. Wait wait wait until you find someone you'd trust to watch your kids (or dogs or orchids).
You'll give away a lot of money in the first year. It's good to be a non-profit in your orbit. But don't get caught up in the special attention you get. It won't last. Instead, focus on the handful of causes that you really care about and dig in for the long haul.
It will soon be easy to forget about the budget pressures of everyday life: the cost of groceries, utilities, car repairs, and medical bills. Be grateful when you can pay for those things without worrying. Help others when you can. Tip well. Be generous.
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