Author Archives: Dale Larson and Marcy Swenson

6 Keys to Happiness When Your Startup is Acquired

Acquisitions aren’t easy, but they don’t have to be miserable. Here’s a guide for anyone at a company being acquired (most applies to acquirers as well).

Last week James Home and Marcy Swenson hosted a core conversation at SXSW on How to Be Acquired and Stay Happy. Wonderful smart people generously participated, sharing their experiences of what worked and didn’t in both sides of dozens of acquisitions of tech startups. (In a future post, we’ll summarize the unique issues for founders and the executive team leading up to acquisition.) With the market shift in startup exits from IPOs to acquisitions, learning to do it well and happily is important to anyone at a startup.

Interestingly, the entire conversation focused not on business integration or strategy but on human integration. We think the strategy may be less important than the people and how they run with it.

Here are the six keys… Continue reading

How to Be Acquired and Stay Happy (Startup Happiness at SxSW 2012)

We’re proud to have both been asked to lead sessions at SxSW 2012, and look forward to seeing you in Austin starting tomorrow! Dale had to decline his panel this year due to scheduling snafus, but Marcy’s looks like it will be standing room only again (like 2011′s Agile Self-Development)…

Come and share your happy acquisition success stories!

Often company acquisitions that seem like a great idea result in disappointment, a mass exodus, the technology being tossed aside, and hard feelings on both sides. But every once in a while, an acquisition results in the team feeling like they got a big win, not just financially, but that it moved their product and careers forward in a way that would have taken them much longer otherwise.

How to Be Acquired and Stay Happy: Marcy and friend James Home, Product Designer, Google (through its acquisition of MetaWeb), lead a Core Conversation about acquisition success stories.  The goal is to draw out what worked well, and provide those looking to be acquired with some guidelines to what to watch for and how to pull it off happily.

Get there early to get a seat and join the conversation; we look forward to seeing you in Austin this week!

Friday, March 9, 3:30-4:30pm, Courtyard Marriott, Rio Grande Ballroom

#sxsw #StayHappy

Startup Happiness Values Deck: Find your team’s cultural DNA

In 7 Principles of Startup Happiness we wrote:

We’re seeing a new type of entrepreneur starting companies lately; they are approaching their company culture with almost as much passion as the business idea itself, with the goal of creating the type of organization that they will be most happy being a part of.

We’d been working to create a canonical set of values that successful startup founders shared. As we began pitching these values to different startup teams, we found that each team had their own unique set of values. Startup founders start their own companies so that they can live according to their own values, not someone else’s! That led us to create the Startup Happiness Values Deck – a tool that startups can use to discover and discuss their own unique cultural DNA as well as to understand each other and work as a tighter team.

Here’s a picture of the cards:

Startup Happiness Values Dec

After testing out the Startup Happiness Values Deck on over 100 individuals and founding teams, in person and at events such as Summit at SeaLUXrQuantified Self, and Startup Lessons Learned, as well as with our coaching clients (both in person and over the phone).

We’re finding that it’s a terrific shortcut to creating meaningful conversations about company values and culture. Sometimes it also surfaces, clarifies and suggests solutions to current important issues the team faces.

We’ve been working with our friends at Delivering Happiness to create a version oriented toward the broader corporate and work world.   (If you’re in San Francisco, join us Thurs evening (6/23) for the San Francisco Delivering Happiness Town Hall where you can try out the first version of this new deck with your team! The first 40 participants will get to take one home to play with.)

Different versions of the deck have between 20 and 30 cards (we’re using an iterative process to introduce new cards and eliminate unpopular ones). We ask each person on a team to stack rank the values, according to what makes them the happiest at work, and we’ve been impressed with how unique and individual the results are.

Even more interesting are the conversations we have with teams after each individual has completed the exercise. The foundation and cultural DNA of the company is laid bare, along with launching points into understanding individual needs and differences, and turning shared values into habits.

Because the values cards are external, moveable, and tactile, people seem to be able to discuss difficult challenges with more ease, and reach solutions more quickly.

As coaches, we’ve found this to be an invaluable tool to help us create constructive conversations amongst team members very quickly. For teams who are experiencing challenges reaching agreement or making decisions, it often helps to explain why that might be happening, and allows us to facilitate solution-oriented conversations.

We are available for 2-hr or half-day workshops for startups, teams, or incubator programs; we will customize the material to meet the needs of your unique situation. We enjoy helping teams to learn, grow, and succeed!