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10 Steps for a Successful Merger/Acquisition

In a session at the Becker's Hospital Review Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 16th, David Jarrard, president and CEO of Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, and Susan Alcorn, senior vice president of Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, presented 10 rules for a successful communication around a healthcare merger/acquisition.

1. Build a campaign team. The team should include representatives from the finance, clinical, operational, the community, regulators and competitors. "Don't bring one group in at the last minute," Ms. Alcorn said.

2. Be transparent. Providing the right information at the right time ensures everyone is kept in the loop. Transparency has a lot to do with risk management, Mr. Jarrard said. "It's really hard to keep a secret, especially when the deal is this big," he added. "Suddenly the cats out of the bag, and you're on the response and on defense. We err on the side of telling more, not less.

3. Think like the opposition. The opposition may come in the form of passive resistance, or it may be direct opposition from competitors, labor and physician groups, Mr. Jarrard said. "They key is to plan for it, anticipate it, so when the opposition comes, we're not shocked. We're not flat-footed, and we know how we're going to respond."

4. Be flexible. Flexibility includes opening lines of communication, Ms. Alcorn said. "It's important to have ways to get to the larger group.

5. "Don't dance to someone else's music." Successful mergers and acquisitions don't follow other organizations' plans. "You have to control to the greatest extent you can your own destiny," Ms. Alcorn said.

6. Own the message. Mr. Jarrard said organizations should have something to say about the transaction beyond what is presented on paper. Owning the message is a three-tiered process, he said. First, communicate the "threat" that the in the future, things are going to have to change. Second is the creating a vision of the future that people can see themselves in. Finally, the solution is the partnership that takes you from where you are to where you want to go.

7. The means of delivering the message is important. "Your message is more than words," Ms. Alcorn said. "Be careful to pick the right person who is trusted and has a history and legacy who people will follow." Dr. Jarrard added the theater of the message is important, and some organizations are better suited to announce the organization in a news release, while others would benefit from a press event.

8. Get the message clear internally before going externally. Hospital employees have to know the message and internalize it before making any announcement public. "This is your grassroots," Mr. Jarrard said, returning to the political campaign theme. "This is your primary, winning the hearts and minds of your nurses and providers."

9. Over communicate. People want to hear about issues that are going to personally affect them. "People aren't listening to you unless it hits them home first," Ms. Alcorn said. "They want to know their jobs are secure; they want to know their child is going to be treated in your hospital."

10. "It's not over when it's over." The closing of a transaction indicates the opening of the next chapter. "The hard work is just the beginning," said Ms. Alcorn. "It's building a relationship, building better cultures. It's setting the tone for the future together."

More Articles on Mergers and Acquisitions:

Key Issues in Mergers and Acquisitions: Is Ownership a Downward Trend?
CHE Trinity to Sell 2 Hospitals to Munson Healthcare
Ochsner, St. Tammany Parish Hospital to Form Affiliation

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