Has your WordPress company been acquired? You’re not alone.
Has your WordPress company been acquired? You’re not alone. It’s all the talk on Twitter, Slack, and around the virtual watercooler: WordPress is experiencing major, system-wide changes in its ecosystem. More companies are selling, and they’re not just changing ownership — they are being acquired under bigger brands.
An Acquisition Story with a Happy Ending
It came seemingly out of the blue. (I know, of course, that months of negotiations went into it, lots of evaluating options, and, of course, tons of consideration of everything that goes into a sale.) To me, at least, it was out of the blue. I didn’t have it on my radar that GiveWP would be sold to another company. So to say I was shocked is an understatement.
In fact, I went through about twenty thoughts in about five seconds:
- What does this mean for ME? (More coworkers — and an awesome company culture that I and my team fit right into.)
- What does this mean for MY TEAM? (Not much, and everything.)
- Will Liquid Web value a Customer Success team? (Yes!)
- Will I still have a job? (Yes.)
- Will I have to prove myself and my team to someone else? (No.)
- Will I have a new boss? (Kind of.)
- Will my insurance, 401K, time off, holidays and other benefits remain the same? (Mostly.)
- When is this happening? (In a week.)
- How can I keep this a secret until next week? (I did. Somehow.)
- Will everyone stay? (Almost all did.)
- Should I be afraid? (No.)
The initial shock was still reeling through my body. It was now after hours, and Matt Cromwell reached out for a call. He wanted to know my thoughts, my feelings, answer any questions and (this is the most important part), to reassure me that me AND my team were valued, were part of the deal, and would continue forward.
The reassurance never stopped.
And this was what made our transition to Liquid Web so easy. We were constantly reassured from BOTH sides how much we were valued, how much we were welcomed, and how excited they were to have us on the team.
When I look now and ask myself what changed since the acquisition? Nothing and everything.
Ante Laca, GiveWP
Seriously. When you hear about the news for the first time, you’ll experience a rush of emotions like I did, at varying degrees. Remember that (in almost all cases) the team is part of the deal. The new company wants what makes your product amazing — and that includes you. So breathe. It’s going to be OK.
You will hear a lot of information in a very short period of time. You won’t remember it all. So ask questions — even if you know you’ve heard the answer before. The principal players in this deal want you to be informed and confident in the transition. So ask and ask again if you need to.
Also make sure you’re asking questions that you haven’t heard answers to. Maybe you have scheduled a vacation and want to make sure it’s still scheduled. You can ask.
I promise that your comfort and confidence in this transition is paramount for all involved. So ask the questions you need to. They will be answered.
If you still have questions or aren’t happy with the answers, this is the time to ask them and to advocate for any of your needs. I had questions. Then I got answers. As a result, I could move forward confidently.
Not asking, not advocating, and not making sure you’re aware of your own needs can only make you more confused and nervous — so make sure you have what you need.
Make Decisions for Yourself and Your Happiness
The truth is, in any transition you can make decisions for yourself and your own happiness. If the new circumstances don’t feel like a good fit for you, you have the ability to leave. Although the company wants you and they want you to be happy, they will understand if this timing means that you need to make alternative decisions for yourself. As a matter of fact, it’s better to make those kinds of decisions now rather than in six months’ time, as the more time spent in a new culture that doesn’t fulfill you will only make things more difficult for everyone.
Learn All the Things
Meet people. Learn about the 401k. Discover the internal workings of different teams. Find out when pay day is, and how it works. Learn how to ask for time off. Figure out what happens if you miss clocking in and how to fix it. Do you have a new VPN? A company swag store? Game night? Who are the people? How can you fit in?
Learning about the things that you need to know and the things that make the environment what it is will help you feel situated and welcomed.
Think about your team.
Acquisitions are a stressful time for everyone on your team. They are facing massive amounts of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. If handled with openness and empathy, this is a shared experience that will bond your team together.
You’ve hired them for a reason, and you’ve made decisions about their future for them, most of the time, without them evening knowing things were about to change. Be sensitive to that. Know that every team member has a different set of circumstances in their lives, different dispositions, and unique life paths that will frame this experience for them.
Keep that in mind as you make plans, make announcements, and make decisions.
Share information. Be open. Be honest.
Rally around your department team and make them 1000% sure that you’ve got their backs.
Regardless of what your company culture is like, share as much information as you can. If knowledge is power, information is empowerment. At a time when it feels like everything is changing, you’re the one with the knowledge — the one in power. Share information and empower your team to ask questions and make good decisions.
Inform the narrative.
Share information in an organized way. Tell the story about how you arrived at this decision. Talk about why you feel the team is the most important part of the deal — if, indeed, you feel this way. Talk about your plans for the future, and the plans of the new company once the acquisition is complete.
Think about the team.
I can only speak to how it’s been with Stellar and Liquid Web. With Stellar, things have grown quickly, and I think a new team member joining today has a pretty one-of-a-kind welcoming experience from the best and brightest of their peers working across the WordPress space.
Welcome the new team with open arms. Tell them why they are important to you. Introduce them to others in the company. Show them where they will get information. Give them as much space and yet as much guidance as they need.
Have an onboarding process.
From payroll to 401k to how to request time off, your onboarding should be comprehensive and reassuring. Make sure the process is as smooth as possible. Recognize that your international team may have a different experience than your domestic team, and prepare for that. Ensure that every team member, regardless of location, is onboarded with the same care as any other.
Be reassuring and open to questions.
Your newly acquired team will look to you to be included, to be valued, and for leadership. If you and your onboarding team manage things well, it won’t feel as scary — or worse, hostile. Make time to answer questions: have a town hall, open office hours, or a calendar link for team members to schedule a few minutes with you one-on-one.
Move forward with business as usual as soon as possible.
Honestly, nothing says “things will stay the same as much as possible” as getting back to work. Of course, be open to questions going forward, but don’t dwell in the “honeymoon” phase — get things as back to normal as possible.
Acquisition is exciting, scary, fun, terrifying, and a lot of work for everyone on both sides and any team involved. Every person involved has the ability to make it a little bit better for themselves and others — through sharing information, being welcoming, being open, and advocating for what’s best.
In this ever-changing WordPress ecosystem, let’s remember to put people before software, and community before code.
If you have questions about the acquisition process and how to better navigate it as an employee, manager, or business owner and a member of Post Status, you can join us in Post Status Slack in the
#hr-talk channel. You may also reach out to me on Twitter where my DMs are always open, and I’m always happy to serve as a resource. —Michelle