Recently I was talking with a Wipfli colleague about helping people through change and the challenges of getting folks to accept an adjustment to how they’ve always done things. We exchanged thoughts on what it means to bring two different teams—each with their own traditions (Hawaiian shirts on Friday!), ways of doing things, and communication styles—together. Some combinations are temporary, like a team assembled for a specific project. Others are more permanent, such as combining offices. Different groups have different cultures, and they may not always come together smoothly.
It’s like bringing two families together. When we were first married 26 years ago, my wife Kelley and I had to go through some negotiations around the holidays—menus, where would we spend Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day, and when you are supposed to open your presents. Some of these discussions seemed as high stakes as a financial contract negotiation! I confess, I did not win very many concessions, but we do have many of my favorite foods over the holidays. It all worked out, though, and in the end we formed our own traditions and ways of doing things, just a little different from those of each of the families we’d come from. In a way, we have our own culture.
When looking at combining offices, merging with an equal, or acquiring a smaller institution, are decision makers taking into account the culture of each organization? Will the people in the “families” brought together by this opportunity be ready to say, “Let’s get going and get it done,” or will it be more of a “We don’t do it that way around here” conversation? We spend time on due diligence, considering value in relation to cost, the potential for growth, and how the new financial institution’s geographic footprint fits into our own. It is also important to take the time to understand your own institution’s culture and assess the culture of your potential partner. Just knowing about potential conflicts in advance may help prevent learning lessons the hard way. To help someone join your family, it helps to know something about theirs.
Let Wipfli help you to better understand the culture of your organization, its strengths and weaknesses, and how they might fit together with a potential new “family.”