Dell's $3.9 billion acquisition of Perot Systems; Xerox's $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services; and Walt Disney Co.'s $4 billion deal to buy Marvel Entertainment to name but a few. And I for one am glad to see their return. Not just because it's fun to grade CEOs on their strategic thinking and see which ones recognize the opportunities the current market dislocation has created; it is also an indicator that we are on the road to economic recovery.
However, announcing a deal has been reached or even closed does not guarantee its success. On paper a deal might look perfect (remember how heralded the media's coverage of AOL's acquisition of Time Warner was back in 2000?), but if not properly integrated the likelihood of success drops dramatically. AOL and Time Warner were never successfully integrated and AOL will be spun-off before the end of the year.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life… That old adage holds equally true for M&A deals. Day One after the deal closes is critical to the deal's success, as acquisition integration is the key to realizing the value of any deal. Integration of the businesses requires detailed planning of which a vital component is the communications with all relevant stakeholders. The communications plan must be direct, transparent, and deliver a concise message explaining the benefit of the deal and how it will affect each stakeholder. Good communications will stop rumors, increase productivity and help retain top talent from leaving.
My advice to CEOs heading into deals is to not overlook the importance of communications. A structured approach to communications, as with the other aspects of integration, allows you to remain focused on the tasks at hand and achieve your original acquisition goal, unlocking value for all stakeholders.