In a previous life (ie. before I got married and had the children), I was an accountant, and worked in the Corporate Finance department of a UK Plc. The company was going through an aggressive expansion, and I got to see first hand how mergers, and takeovers are done in the corporate world.
The job was not really me, and I was quite glad when I left it and walked away from the corporate world. But now I come to think of it, it is amazing what I learned, which I am now using to great effect in the way I do business.
I am unusual among mumpreneurs in that I bought Motivating Mum rather than starting it myself. Now of course, I have taken over a second business in Mum’s the Boss, similar in many ways, with a culture and ethos that I recognise, and yet with one or two significant differences that I intend to capitalise on.
And so I stand faced with the task of bringing together these two businesses, each made in the mould of their own founders. And I’m remembering some of the lessons (good and bad) taught to me by some of the managers that I met during my corporate days.
Management by Walking About
This was a phrase that one of my favourite senior managers used a lot. When we were looking at companies to buy he would go and take a look at their facilities from the outside, watching the staff entering and leaving, noting whether people looked happy or otherwise. Later on when we got to visit the factories that we were wanting to buy he advised us – “Keep your eyes and ears open, say very little and don’t prejudge a company by your own standards”. And that is what we all did, learning a great deal along the way.
Once the deal was done and we took ownership, it was the same idea. He recommended a time of just watching the company, seeing how it ran and trying to learn what was good about it, before making any changes whatsoever. Sometimes you would learn things that would enable you to improve your own business.
One of the bits I hated about the corporate finance function is when we sat around the table discussing the potential “synergies” of the acquisition. In its positive sense, this meant finding ways in which the two companies could come together and make cost savings and benefits, which would make the whole better than the sum of the two parts. In practice of course that meant shutting factories and making duplicate functions redundant, which is something I always found distasteful, even though I knew it was necessary.
Sometimes I got involved with the integration of the new businesses into our corporate structure. Often the approach taken was that “the suits” came in and gave orders to the acquired company that now they were going to change everything they had ever done and adapt themselves to the way that we did things. I hated being “a suit”, but that was how it was.
Sometimes this worked OK, and sometimes changes were made with disastrous consequences, which might have been handled with a lot more sensitivity. When it went wrong you always found disgruntled lower levels of management, who resented the top bosses, which in many cases led to problems and sometimes outright rebellions further down the line.
So now I find myself doing mergers and acquisitions again, albeit on a much smaller scale. I am very sensitive to the lessons, good and bad I have learned, and determined to make the best of my two “adopted businesses”.
I am not “a suit” any more, I consider myself very much “mummy” to these two little businesses, and I want to ‘parent’ them sympathetically rather like I (try to) do with my own chidren. There are synergies to be made between Motivating Mum and Mum’s the Boss,but I intend to approach them with sensitivity, drawing out the best bits of each website and sharing them with the readers, leaders and event attendees of the other.
A few little bits might drop out along the way, but only when I am sure that nobody who matters in either business (and that means you , the readers as much as anyone else) will miss the things that I decide to stop.
So if you are wondering what I am up to and why you don’t see so much of my presence yet, it’s because I am lurking. I want to discover exactly what makes Mum’s the Boss tick and why it is so successful, before I impose any of my own ideas, and make changes that would maybe alienate those of you that love it so much. I am “walking about”, experiencing the site as a user, and slowly having conversations with all of the people who contribute to this site in so many ways.
Eventually I want to make a few changes, and I hope they will be for the better. But I’m hoping to go so slowly that you will hardly notice, and to keep the feel of the site exactly as you are used to it. I would love to hear your comments, suggestions and feedback – what do you like particularly about Mum’s the Boss, and what would you like to see changed, added or removed?