If the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, things can get pretty tangled. But what about when the feet sneak off with the organization in a completely new direction? Or what if the brain gives a command that doesn't get to the feet or hands?

In today's global economy, companies have locations all over the world. Communicating effectively between offices can be a challenge. Even when your company is profitable, if your formal business and marketing practices are weak or too unstructured that profitability may not last forever.

This issue's dilemma tackles internal communications. We are looking to you, SWOT Team, to give your expert opinions. How do you improve internal communications and manage team building in a decentralized workforce?

Thanks also, for your valuable advice on how to prepare for an acquisition. Read below to see your peers' best advice about ways to document your team's value and put in you in the best possible position before this type of change.

If you don't care what your two left feet are doing, or lack the energy to prepare for an organizational change, write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your own dilemma. Tapping into our collective experience, strength and hope really works. You could win a copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

SWOT Team unite! Here's how you can make a difference:

• Give advice about this issue's dilemma 

• Read your peers' responses to the previous dilemma (below).

• Submit your own dilemma

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

I work for a global consulting company that has marketing departments that are decentralized. Financially, we're successful. However, in terms of structured and formal business and marketing practices, we are significantly weak.

The biggest challenges we face are team linkages and communication. We have several offices around the world that operate as individual profit centers, which in effect creates a mentality of “I'm going to do what's best for me and my office.”

I am looking for advice and recommendations on how the marketing team can work through internal struggles and politics to help our people work more closely together even though we are different locations. Any suggestions?

—Anonymous Marketing Manager

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Threat

How do you prepare for an acquisition?

My company is in the process of being courted by two companies looking to acquire the division in which I work.

In this division, our marketing department consists of three of us. How do we best prepare for a potential acquisition? We're not sure if our workload will increase (or if we'll lose our jobs altogether).

Is there any way to get ready for this type of thing?

—Lateisha, Project Manager

Greetings, Lateisha. The dilemma you posed is one of those types of questions that can be very scary. Preparing for the unknown, for changes that can occur with a variety of outcomes, can be downright frustrating. You might feel like you're alone in this situation while most people you know are working away at their “stable” jobs.

We want to reinforce that you are not alone. We believe many of your SWOT Team members have faced similar situations. Some of them wrote in to give you advice on how you can best prepare for an acquisition.

One SWOT Team member reminds us that if a company (or two of them) is looking to acquire your business, your organization must be doing many things right to be so desirable (you can read more of Michel Marquis's comments below). In that vein, make sure your company knows your team's worth, and then research the acquiring companies to see how you would be valuable to them. Note: you may be valuable to them in completely different ways than you are to your own company.

Once you make a case for your team, sit back and go with the flow. The responses we received to your dilemma support the following ways to prepare for and react to an acquisition:

1. Prove your value to the current company.

2. Research the acquiring companies and use this info to improve your value.

3. Go with the flow.

1. Prove your value to the current company

When it comes right down to it, your marketing team is probably more valuable to your parent company than you realize. Look at your accomplishments. Document them and pull together statistics as well as praise/highlights from satisfied employees and customers to make your case regarding adding value to your company.

Neil Tomlinson, Sales & Marketing Director for Dynamco Limited, recommends building a portfolio of your activities:

Keep a concise portfolio (update quarterly) to demonstrate the actual value your team has added over the past 12 months and how you have typically approached the challenges that have been set before you. Once you have this, build on it, as you will need it should things change in the future. No one gets rid of people unless he or she cannot see the value of keeping them. Providing value is an ongoing currency.

Michel Marquis, Consultant at Créativité-communication Michel Marquis Inc., adds:

You are not saying whether your top management is doing anything to reduce the pressure on the employees; such a situation definitely calls for good internal communications and even crisis management on their part.

There is one positive point in your short exposé: your team has a valorized asset! If some outsiders wish to acquire your division, it means you are valuable. That's a comforting thought, isn't it? You can capitalize on it. But first, take a deep breath and don't panic. “Que sera, sera” anyway. You only have power over yourselves.

I suggest that you and your teammates conduct a review of your marketing practices, dust up your files, gather a display of your best ad material and identify opportunities for improvement. You might very well find yourselves in a context of innovation soon and you'll have to pick up the challenge. Remember that a threat often holds the potential of an opportunity… provided it is handled properly. That's what you should be concentrating on: how could we do better in a new situation? It is not so much a question of workload as one of motivation. And believe it or not, your motivation depends on you—wonderful people. Be sharp!

2. Research the acquiring companies and use this info to improve your value

There are many ways to gather information about acquiring companies. You can look at their Web sites, find other information by searching the Internet, read their annual reports, look for stories about them in the news, speak with past or current employees, talk to your sales force, customers and partners; you could even hire someone to help you with this research. The nuggets of information you want to get out of this research are the following:

  • How does their team work compared to your team (types of marketing campaigns, messages, target audiences, marketing tools, partners, etc.)?

  • Would your team be a good asset to the company?

  • Would you want to work for this type of a company?

  • If your team isn't a good asset as it is, how can you make a case for your value?

However you decide to prepare, doing your homework is very important. One anonymous team member recommends the following three steps:

  1. Scope out the two companies for their current situation and staff levels. Then build a SWOT analysis with which to devise a way to ensure your team is essential to their success. Talk to the potential new owners as to the direction they may want to take the division and what roles they see for your team. The more you know, the better you will be to help integrate into the new regime.

  2. Ensure you are the most qualified and well known as the market leader. By doing this you will ensure that you are seen as more than just another acquisition. You will be indispensable. Knowledge is power, and the more you have the better off you will be.

  3. Think of this as another challenge to becoming the best in your field. The more valuable you are, the less likelihood of having to change your way of doing things to their way. If you believe you are worth the effort of another company acquiring you, then make them pay for it. In any case, if things do not proceed, you will be in a better position in your own organization.

Elizabeth Gibbs, Website & Marketing Coordinator for ERICO International Corporation, also recommends researching the acquiring company and pointing out your strengths:

First, try to find out as much about the acquiring company as you can—what they sell, how they go to market, how they position their products, the main messages they send to customers (and how: direct mail, electronic marketing, tradeshows, advertisements, etc). Also, try to find out how they are structured internally and what the culture is like (you need to decide if you think you might still want to work for them). Then make a list of things you do now and see if the acquiring company does these also, or if there is a niche you can fit into.

For example, I was responsible for maintaining the Web site, and the acquiring company had a very rudimentary one. I managed to get them to agree I had the skills and knowledge to combine and upgrade the two Web sites. Flexibility is the key thing here, and I'm sure you'll hear that a lot. Try to be open to doing things their way, while also suggesting things that have worked for your group and markets. After all, you know your products and markets better than they do. Make a list of all your major accomplishments/projects to show the new management how you have helped your company achieve its previous goals. And if all else fails, you can use this to update your resume! Good luck!

3. Go with the flow

However you prepare for an acquisition, once the organizational change occurs, you might as well try to make the best of it rather than fight it. An anonymous SWOT Team project manager leaves us with this thought:

My advice is to be open to whatever happens. I was in a similar situation, and I was able to help the transition team. I was seen as valuable, and then brought over (in a different position, with more money). Good luck.

Go SWOT Team for Acquiring and Delivering Knowledge!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your thoughtful responses to this situation, which can have a major impact on those affected by it. Thanks for your participation, and if you would like the complete text of all responses for your own analysis, please click here.

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.