12 Dec What Tech Founders Can Learn from Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has now been the subject of Internet memes, endless think pieces, and late night comedy. No matter what you think of the richest man in the world and his businesses, it’s clear that the Twitter takeover has not gone as well as it could have, or should have. But this is not anomalous in the world of tech M&A. Mergers are often chaotic, and sometimes the chaotic disruption is the cocoon from which transformative growth develops. Nevertheless, tech founders can learn plenty of lessons from Musk’s first few months, to avoid their own M&A chaos.
Institutional Knowledge Matters
Companies are complex beasts, and often the people who are most integral to the company don’t have titles matching their importance. People who are deeply respected, who know how to solve internal problems, or who understand a company’s culture are incredibly valuable. Buyers must get to know individuals and understand their contributions before firing whole teams or implementing new rules that could drive out highly valuable employees. Spend time getting to know the business and its norms before attempting to shift things.
Develop a Communication Plan
It doesn’t matter how well a deal is going. If communications to the external world are inconsistent, frantic, or alarming, it’s going to undermine public perception of the deal, and potentially undermine the deal itself. Your integration team must develop a communication plan that first prioritizes your staff, then develops clear messaging for the outside world. No deleted Tweets, inconsistent press releases, or late-night news. A slow, steady release of accurate information inspires confidence that the deal is in good hands.
Get Stakeholder Input and Buy-In
A company is the sum of all its parts. The people it aims to serve are critical, too. A dictatorial approach that attempts to control staff and customers is doomed to failure and backlash. Instead, savvy buyers work to identify key stakeholders and get their buy-in. New features need user support and approval. Shifts in company culture need to occur over time, and prioritize the needs of your most valuable team members. Stakeholder buy-in offers another important benefit: it removes advocating for the deal from your list of things to do. When stakeholders support the deal, they’ll spread the word to others, rather than actively undermining the deal because they’re dissatisfied with how it has affected them.
Be Steady and Consistent
Brilliance matters, but leaders bring more than intellect to the table. They can inspire others through a steady hand, consistency, and wisdom. It’s better to move slowly and deliberately than publicly make a big mistake that you immediately have to correct. A merger or acquisition is already a significant disruption. Adding more disruption to the mix does not allay fears, and can create a ripple effect of turmoil. Your best employees, who will inevitably have other offers, may leave.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Twitter. But tech leaders observing the leadership transition should heed its lessons.