David Peacock: Material Handling Acquisition Effects on Customers

David Peacock

Is your conveyor company the same company it was last year? If it’s Hytrol, it is.

Recently some major players in the material handling industry were acquired through business agreements, and while an acquisition does not spell disaster, it’s always a harbinger of change.  Usually it is a bittersweet moment for those at the company, a period of uncertainty for the customer and the end for the old way of doing business.

I have seen and been involved with multiple acquisitions in previous companies.  Those experiences, both good and bad, have taught me that there is peace of mind working at a company whose culture and processes change naturally to meet customer needs and expectations and not as a result of an acquisition.

Acquisitions matter for customers, and there are three main reasons why.

Culture changes

A company culture is an asset that must be guarded.  Done properly, a culture takes time to foster and grow.  Once changed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to recreate.  When the culture is focused on the customer, outstanding support results.  When it focuses on the employees, mountains can be moved.  When the two are blended together, the results are always greater than their sum.  In an acquisition or a merger, the focus often shifts toward financials.  Eyes turn to evaluate the success of the acquisition and the easy gage is financial performance.  Financial metrics rarely result in positive impacts on customer or employee engagement initiatives.

Business process changes

There will be changes.  The question is, in what areas will changes come first?  Some easy ones are:

  • What is the impact to decision-making?
  • How are payment terms affected?
  • Do past relationships matter?
  • Will my contacts even survive the acquisition?

In a well-run acquisition, these may be addressed, but in a poorly executed acquisition, gaps in the planning will amplify the disruption caused by these changes.

Each company should have a short-term plan to handle the disruptions that come with an acquisition, and this plan should give you insight into where the company is headed.

Future stability

The future stability of a company is one of the most important factors.  How likely is it that the company will merge or be acquired again? Will there be additional restructuring within the new company?  Are employees confident in the future or are they seeking opportunities elsewhere?  Is the new business sustainable or will there be pressure to make additional changes?

Business today must always keep an eye on risk mitigation.  Understanding that, at what point does the associated risk of an acquisition impact your capital expenditure plan?  How much risk is acceptable? Because uncertainty can make purchase decisions much more difficult, this is probably a good time to take a look at the relationships you will carry into the future.

A great company culture is difficult to build, and even more difficult to sustain in the face of a huge change like an acquisition. Employees and customers alike benefit from the transparency and stability that a company is able to give them. Hytrol has worked on this customer-focused culture from Day 1, and it’s a culture that I’m proud to say will be carried into the future. That is good for us, it’s good for our integration partners, and it’s good for the end-user.


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