By Tineke Mann, eBusiness Manager, TIMG
Mergers and acquisitions are common in the legal sector – but as many who have embarked down this path know, getting the post-acquisition integration right is not always easy! In this post, we share some of the key learnings from our acquisition of LitSupport in the hope that this will help you on your journey.
The Information Management Group (TIMG) embarked upon the challenge of successfully acquiring a complementary brand to enhance their service offering in early 2014. TIMG solve information management problems daily for thousands of businesses, large and small, in every major industry, across Australia and New Zealand. Our offering is simple; help clients store, manage, integrate and access important information securely, compliantly and effortlessly.
By December 2014, TIMG successfully acquired LitSupport; a leading organisation that specialises in providing secure and confidential information management services to law firms and corporate legal departments. The brainchild of Val Pitt some 20 years ago, LitSupport grew from a home-based business to a national organisation with over 130 employees and a service network spanning Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Why would LitSupport embrace being absorbed into TIMG you may ask?
“Times were changing. The legal industry was and is facing increasing pressure to improve performance and manage costs across all areas of operations” Val Pitt, Communications Manager, LitSupport said. “A union with TIMG enables us to deliver greater efficiencies and innovative solutions for our clients.”
TIMG similarly identified the need for innovation in the managed services and information management space.
Chris Cotterrell, General Manager TIMG Australia recognised the need to provide a complete service offering to clients, ensuring they continued to grow and revolutionise the space.
“Investigations were completed by Ernst & Young, our parent company Freightways and TIMG management and it was decided that LitSupport offered the services we needed to compete in our industry, as well as offering an excellent cultural fit for both teams”.
The combined expertise in both companies has seen a positive outcome with TIMG now offering a full suite of services with greater capabilities to their clients.
The integration challenges
The transition, however, has not been easy and has had opposing challenges for both parties in different ways.
Val acknowledges the positives and negatives that have accompanied the journey and acquisition of LitSupport within TIMG.
“The hardest part for me has been letting go of decision making after twenty-one years of being the key decision maker. In contrast, the most rewarding part of the integration has been being part of a much larger organisation where accountability is shared and you are surrounded by many levels of support and expertise”.
The journey for TIMG has been focused on driving the acquisition from a strategic perspective, ensuring goals in the immediate future and in years to come are achieved.
“There were areas we needed to tackle head on, areas that required a longer strategy to ensure a smooth transition, and areas we had little control over,” Chris said.
Mr Cotterrell explains how an earn-out period is still in place until 1 July 2017 and resulted in TIMG having limited authority for the first two and a half years of the acquisition which came with its own set of challenges.
Consideration factors in brand acquisition extend far beyond the immediate strategic vision. Chris Cotterrell explains:
“Culturally, it’s difficult to integrate small owned business structures with a larger organisation that operate with a more corporate structure and related governance”.
“TIMG managers and those involved with LitSupport have been very excited about the service offering and the value this service will have for TIMG clients. TIMG has successfully signed an agreement with Ringtail to resell it as LitReview in line with the TIMG branding. This is an exciting development as legal and corporate clients will now have access to the most advanced eDiscovery tools” he continues.
Advice for others
With every acquisition, ensuring clear communication to clients is vital.
“Branding and synergies will be the main focus in our immediate plans, with a five-year aim to triple the digitisation and processing revenue” Chris states.
As with all business changes, learnings will be had and will be different depending on the side of the table you sit at.
Val recalls the experience: “I would not have changed a thing. I never look back – the future is way too bright. If I could offer advice to an organisation exploring the same avenue, I would encourage them to choose carefully, be prepared for change and commit to a successful merger”.
For TIMG the acquisition and integration challenges continue as the company continues to grow.
At the start of the acquisition, integrating finance and payroll was prioritised; swiftly followed by the integration of CRM and job management to ensure client workflow remained unaffected.
“We should have taken a much more active role in cost control at that point of the journey. Costs blew out and bringing these back in line has been a painful process” Chris recalls.
Internal considerations should also be allowed for, he said.
“More time should have been spent earlier with LitSupport staff to help them adjust to our wider vision. It’s taken almost three years to adjust the view that we are not two separate businesses, but one; TIMG.”
As Chris highlights, people and their behaviours play an important role in any acquisition, and the management of these behaviours is time-consuming but necessary to provide clear vision and to set realistic expectations.
“If I could advise a business who were about to take on a similar journey, I would advise them to manage expectations, review systems and processes and don’t assume they will be compliant just because of certifications.
Above all, make sure the cultures of the two businesses will work well together” Chis advises.
About our Guest Blogger
Tineke Mann is the eBusiness Manager for TIMG
, the information management service provider. Tineke is passionate about helping lawyers simplify their work-life through more efficient management of records and top data security. In addition to working closely with a range of clients tailoring solutions, she manages teams of eDiscovery experts, Online Backup specialists and in-house developers.