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Transition before transaction: A case study

June 28, 2016 by Klaus Uhlig

No matter how much it’s wanted or needed, change is never an easy thing. But change is as much a part of business as it is of life. And over the past several years, virtually all of the major works we’ve completed have been for clients who want to get their house in order and prepare themselves for some sort of significant transition.

These transitions are usually the sale of their business or the purchase of another. Either way, it’s a significant shake up to every day life.

The thing about the mergers and acquisitions process is that it’s not always a quick one – it can take years to complete. It’s a long continuum and there are numerous points along the road where’s specialities can add value to smooth the transition and make the process more comfortable and simpler for everyone.

Still trying to wrap your head around how? Here’s a look at a past project:

Waddington’s Auction House has been a Canadian fixture since 1850. It had a well-established brand in furniture and rugs but since the 1980s, its focus had increasingly shifted to fine art and its brand didn’t reflect this new direction.

By directing the creative transformation from a strategic standpoint, was able to completely rebrand and re-conceptualize this 165-year-old company.

To reinforce the move to real-time online auctions, Waddington’s Auction House became, with a bold new colour palette and a sleek, modern wordmark design with a strong sans serif font.

And, to strengthen’s position as an art expert, distinctive visual identities for each department were created and incorporated into the new website. Each department was personalized to appeal to the younger demographic and department heads (mostly of a younger generation) became the faces of Contemporary, Canadian, Inuit and Asian Art.

Coinciding with this visual facelift, the company moved from their old warehouse-style building to a brand new multi-use high-rise in Toronto’s design district. Working closely with an interior designer, ensured that the overall look and feel of the new location aligned with the rebranded is now Canada’s leader in online art auctions. And more importantly, when its owner decides it’s time to sell and move on, the company is ready, having already put its best foot forward.

Over the next five to 10 years, more than 500,000 Canadian businesses will be involved in a transition. And more than 50 percent of those companies will have revenues of less than $100 million (our sweet spot). Throughout the process, websites will need to be assessed, brands will need a face-lift, communication collateral will need to be produced and will be there before, during and after.


The stages of a transition: Integrating towards a common goal

June 07, 2016 by Klaus Uhlig

Integrating the people, cultures and brands of two companies following a merger or acquisition is one of the most difficult elements of the entire process. And, it’s the most crucial.

That’s because the success of a business transition is dependant on a seamless integration. The more bumps there are along the road, the less successful it is likely to be.

Once all of the business details are hammered out and the deal is signed, employees from both sides need validation, consistency and an understanding of the path for the future. Then there are the existing customers and suppliers from both companies that need to understand where the ‘new’ merged company is going, what it is selling and why all of this was necessary in the first place.

Wondering where a creative director fits in? Consider these three areas that all need to be properly communicated and packaged in order to achieve a seamless transition.

Merging the vision and values of the two companies. You want, and need, the employees of both companies to become one cohesive group. To do so, you may need to develop a new mission statement and/or a refreshed visual identity that represents the new ‘merged’ company.

Developing an overall brand plan.
What to do with the acquired company’s brand is a big question. Overlooking this has the potential to create chaos and confusion amongst employees, customers, potential customers and suppliers. It’s important to take the time to understand both brands and the connections consumers have to them before figuring out how to integrate the two. Do you do this immediately or evolve it over the next 12 to 24 months?

Creating a strategic plan for the new entity. Proper strategic planning is beneficial for any growing business but is invaluable when integrating two established businesses into one. Because if company ‘A’ has 5 employees, and company ‘B’ has 5 employees, your new strategic plan needs to develop a path that will grow your company to a bigger one of 10+ employees, not shrink it to 7. Yes, keep your human capital and leverage it for the future.

The seamless integration of a business transition is dependant on seeing the big picture and effectively mashing the brands together. But it’s more than a mash up, it’s about making sure that all employees are singing from the same song sheet and that marketing collateral, visual identity and brand strategy all reflect the direction and long-term goals of the new merged company.

By fostering a new identity through visuals, messaging and a common voice, your new, merged company will have the greatest chance of success.