I recently spoke at PCMA Convening Leaders in Austin, Texas, and was privileged to be on a panel about the impact of mergers and acquisitions on strategic meetings management programs, along with my good friends Carolyn Pund of Cisco Systems and Darell Stokes of Prestige. The well-attended session was moderated by Ami Mayfield, CMP, senior events manager at Keller Williams Realty International, and we tackled some very difficult and challenging questions about the current state of our industry.
As you know, the world of meetings and events is currently being disrupted and affected by various mergers and acquisitions happening in the hotel and meeting-technology sectors. What became very clear to me during the session is that many planners, buyers and program leaders are taking diverse positions on what to do next, while processing how these mergers and consolidations might affect their respective meetings management programs and partner relationships.
After the panel, I had a conversation with an audience member who said to me, “We’re just waiting to see how everything shakes out before we decide what to do next; we’re hoping for the best.” This was ironic, because I had just suggested to the audience that “Hope is not a strategy.” That’s a term I heard many years ago, and it really resonates with me to this day.
Anyone who seeks to remain relevant and be able to respond when things happen in our industry is going to drown if they are “hoping” for the best. In this digital age, time, innovation, disruptors, mergers and acquisitions wait for no one. The time to determine what to do if scenario A, B or C happens is no longer after it happens.
Here are some things you should be thinking about now in our current business environment:
1) Review your existing program strategies — short-, mid- and long-term. If any prospective mergers/acquisitions will have an impact on any of those strategies, you will need to regroup with your team and stakeholders and have contingency strategies ready to go. That also means reviewing your termination dates for existing supplier agreements, because that will determine what timelines you need to work with in case you have to start fresh with requests for proposal.
2) Bigger is not necessarily better. Bigger also means slower speed to market innovation, more layers of approvals and management review, potentially higher costs, less generous terms and conditions, and it could also mean a big change in commissions, overrides, incentives, etc.
The bottom line here is, if you were a big-fish customer in a big pond prior to the merger/acquisition, where will you fall in the newly combined entity’s pond? Will you now be a smaller fish in a bigger pond? Will you lose your seat on their advisory board? Does any of that matter to you? Start thinking about issues like this now and not after things start changing.
3) Engage your suppliers who are affected by the merger/acquisition and ask for their views and advice as to what’s next. Try to get as much information as possible, and if necessary tap into your executive-level contacts/relationships with that supplier. While they are prohibited by their companies as to what they can and cannot comment on, they should be able to at least give you a timeline of what’s going to happen, and you deserve to get a prognosis of any pending innovation, enhancements and deliverables that will be impacted by the merger/acquisition.
Start with your account contact and keep moving up the food chain if you’re not getting the answers and information you need to determine your next moves.
4) Accept that mergers/acquisitions are the new norm. Given the current business environment, it’s important to keep developments in this area on your radar and develop a strategy on what to do when the next one happens. Mergers and acquisitions are like earthquakes; you might not know exactly when they will happen, but you have to always be prepared for them and know what to do next.
5) Last but not least, don’t sit around and hope for the best. Take it from me, when it comes to mergers/acquisitions, you have to be proactive and not reactive. If you haven’t developed your contingency strategies and analyzed the net impact to your program and company due to any merger or acquisition activity from your suppliers, it might cost you your job or loss of leadership credibility. Remember: Hope is not a strategy.
Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter@KevinIwamoto. His book, Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity, is available from Amazon (including a Kindle version), as well as from CreateSpace.