• Cecil Lewis Jr.

Welcome to the Family

Updated: Jan 3

It was just about 2 weeks ago, that all the employees the company I work for received an email from our CEO that stated, “I am pleased to announce that the acquisition of our company by the XYZ Corporation was completed this morning. We are now part of the XYZ family!”. (In this blog post, I will refer to the company that purchased the company I work for as XYZ Corporation, in that the actual company name is not particularly relevant to the blog topic)

Of course, the sale of the company was not a surprise to me or to any of my colleagues. A press release announcing the pending purchase of our company was released to the media in June of this year. Actually, some five years prior to this week’s completion of the acquisition, a newly appointed CEO of our company announced that the current owners would like to sell the company within the next five years and that would be one of his key areas of focus. (the company I work for was privately held for over 30 years by the family of the founder and a handful of former/current employees who held shares of private stock)

Over the last several days since the completion of the acquisition, I began receiving emails from various departments of the new ownership related to the “onboarding” process. A few of the emails started with the sentence, “Welcome to the XYZ family”. (by the way, the word onboarding refers to the process of transferring or transitioning an employee from the one company to a new company or alternatively, you could use this term to describe the process in which Noah put the animals on the ark…….similar in a lot of ways). Then I was invited to participate in a couple of conference calls with managers from the new company and each person hosting these sessions, said the same thing, “Welcome to the XYZ family”.

HOLD ON A MINUTE! Are we really family?… hmmmmm, I don’t think so!... and why does everyone keep saying this? Traditionally, most of us consider our family to be our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, nieces and nephews. And we may even go as far as to classify close friends as an extension of our family. But not a new employer?

Why not call it what it is? It is a financial or contractual agreement between a company and a person that possesses a particular set of skills that the company requires to fulfill a job function in exchange for money. This is called employment, not joining a family.

Don’t get me wrong, this not the first time I have heard this and I am sure you all have heard this at some point in your career; Welcome to the Ford family, welcome to the Microsoft family, welcome to the McDonalds family or welcome to the Garbageman Family. I am not faulting the persons that are making this statement or sending the emails. I am assuming the statement meant to mean well or perhaps they are just repeating something that they heard during their career ("common business statement” used by executives in this situation). Nonetheless, it is simply an attempt of your former employer and new employer to apply the “feel-good factor” to this change in your life.

After receiving about 3 of these emails, I really want to hit the reply button. I would have liked to write something like this; “I am very pleased to now be considered family”.

  • Perhaps you could put me in touch with the Papa XYZ, I wanted to see if he would lend his newfound Son some cash?

  • Could you let Mom XYZ know that I am not coming in today?

  • Will you be coming to my house for Christmas?

  • How many people will be coming to the family reunion?

  • Since we are family, is dating a fellow employee something that might be considered creepy, but is completely acceptable in Kentucky?

You can't choose your family.

Of course, I would not send such emails, but I hope you get the point. I really do not think word “family” applies to this situation. I would suggest something more along the lines of “welcome to the XYZ company” or “welcome to the XYZ team”.

I know that there are many companies that have a family-oriented work culture. A family-oriented work culture is often found in small to mid-size companies. Our company would fall into this category. These companies promote an employee-centric work environment in which they honor and trust their employees, they promote their personal growth and look after them in a way that is not possible for large companies to do. In return the employer has employees that work hard, go beyond the call of duty, are loyal and genuinely care about the company’s success.

I have often said, companies can make great products or provide great services, but it is people who design and build these products, it is people who sell these products and services and it is people who deliver the services around these products. The people are the company. When you find a company that truly recognizes and believes in this, you will find a successful company.

Let me share with you one example of working in a family-oriented work culture. Several years ago, when my mother passed away, the company shared the news with my colleagues via email. Over the course of the following days, I received many emails with notes of sympathy and support. I also received a card from the company expressing and extending their condolences to my family.

Furthermore, upon receiving the news that my Mom was not going to make it through the night, I immediately purchased a ticket for a flight from Germany to the U.S. for the next morning (the ticket was double the normal price). The company reimbursed me for this flight, and I received an email from the Vice President of the company that said, “Cecil, take all the time you need during this difficult time”.

Creating a family-oriented work culture is surely easier for smaller companies. In that I have primarily worked for small to mid-size firms for most of my career, I have seen the rewards that this environment creates for both the employer and employee. However, I think it is important to keep in mind that no matter how wonderful or family-oriented a workplace may be, your company or employer is not your family. It’s business and when I say business, it always comes down to the money. This is not a bad thing; businesses are created to make money for the people who own them and you as employee receive pay for your participation in this process. Just don’t lose sight of what it is all about.

On a conference call announcing the pending acquisition, one of our company’s executives said, “One of the key goals during this process was to ensure the “security” of our valued employees and bolster growth opportunities for all of you in the future”. (another “common business statement” used by executives in this situation)

I sincerely hope that this statement is true, but I would “not hang my hat on those words”. (“not hang my hat on those words” is an English slang, meaning I would not depend or rely on it) The reason that this statement SHOULD BE TRUE, is because the price in which a company is sold for is likely based more upon the work and the efforts of the employees, than that of the people who are selling the company or benefiting from the sale.

But the reason it MAY NOT BE TRUE; let’s pretend that someone offers to buy the company for 5 million dollars more than the companies asking price, but said they will terminate all the employees and roll the company into its existing organization. What do you think would happen? Well…. let’s see what the View From My Window crystal ball says? The employees would be gone. And let’s face it, most of the people who are selling a company are looking for a financial windfall (that’s business) and likely won’t even work for the new company. So how concerned can they really be about their former employee’s futures? You did your job, you were paid, I sold the company (again that’s business).

So here is a View From My Window reality check: When a company you are working for is sold to another company, the people responsible for selling it, not only sold the company, assets, products, technology, customers, etc.; they sold you too.

The result of this process is that you are now working for a company you did not apply to work for. You were not recruited by this company, you did not answer an employment ad from the internet, you did not send them your resume’ or go for an interview. In the sales process, someone else decided where you will now work. How is that for reality!!!! Can I get an Amen!!!

As of October 1st, I was no longer an employee of a small company consisting of 130 people. Today, I am now one of 150,000 employees with the company that acquired us. This is a story that repeats itself every day as companies merge and acquire one another all over the world.

What now? It is actually quite simple:

  1. One should remain optimistic and see what the future holds. Perhaps there is not a big change to your work or personal life. Perhaps there are greater opportunities for advancement and financial growth.

  2. Remain true to the things that are important to you related to your job and work environment. Do not compromise on these points, as there is nothing worse than not being satisfied with this whole work thing that takes up so much of your time and your life.

  3. Remember your employment is a business transaction it is not family.

  4. Finally, in the event, things don’t work out. Go sell yourself to someone else or became a full time Rock-star.

I’ll let you know how things go.

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