August 24, 2010

Running through it

I’ve run through breakups. I’ve run through rainstorms. I’ve run through depression. And today, I ran through a buy out of my company.

Last night, I was out with my new team doing the normal consulting getting-to-know-you-routine. Unbeknownst to us, while we were throwing back coffee-flavored tequila shots at the bar (try it, it’s AWESOME!), all the partners in our firm were meeting in a conference room to vote on an offer to buy the firm.

This morning I got up at 5am (!) to get in a good long workout and burn off the alcohol calories from the night before. While getting ready to head down to the gym, my phone buzzed at me. I couldn’t imagine that anyone on my team was up and sending e-mails, what with all the Patron we had the night before, so I curiously opened it up. The e-mail was from senior leadership, letting us know that we had been bought. As a result, my small 600-person firm is now owned by a Big 4 firm with over 160,000 people. I called one of my best friends from my old firm (I knew he was up to work out as well), and tersely reported the new development. His response? Two words: “oh boy.” And with that, I headed down to the gym to run and think.

I’ve done the Big 4 thing before (and thank goodness this isn’t the same firm that laid me off in 2008!). I loved it at the time and was devastated to leave, but since then, I’ve found that I like the benefits of a small firm much more. Sure, I sometimes miss the name recognition I used to get when I told people where I worked, but there are so many benefits to my current small firm that I just don’t think my new overlords will offer.

For example, my current firm is pushing for more women to become partners (yay, pick me!), so they have a program where you can work part-time from home but not necessarily lose your whole rank and career – the idea being that the flexibility will keep women who might otherwise choose to leave to take care of their families. Additionally, there’s just the whole culture around senior leadership at my current firm – they’re not people who gave up their families and personal lives just to make partner. They all have vibrant lives outside the company, and aren’t looked down upon for having those other interests. Until I left my first job, I never knew you could rise to the top that way; I thought you had to just be a machine that worked into the wee hours of the morning with nothing like family or personal commitments to distract you or steal focus. That’s not what I want in the long term for my career, so I’m thinking this will probably limit the chances of my ever making partner.

Leadership on both sides is talking a big game about how much the new firm wants to learn from our practice – for example, our revenue per consultant numbers are much higher than theirs, so the party line is that they bought us to “learn our secret sauce” and improve their own consulting practice. I don’t know though… you’re telling me that you’re going to change the policies of a 165,000 person firm based on the success of a 600 person firm? That seems off. Besides, I learned from my first experience with the Big 4 not to trust anything their senior leadership says. My current firm has seemingly been very upfront and honest about things, but I’m definitely approaching this acquisition with a bit of skepticism.

The deal hasn’t closed yet (SEC regulations, etc), but I don’t think there’s much shot of it not happening. Until then, we’re proceeding business as usual… and I guess we’ll see what the future brings.


4 thoughts on “Running through it”

  1. The company that bought you guys is where I used to work! From what I remember they had a program like the one you described for parents who wanted to make a flex schedule. I know when I was there, there was a lot of talk about work-life balance but not a whole lot of action. I think part of it is due to where we live in the country and everyone is always go go go workaholics. My new job definitely has much better work life balance so I am happy! Good luck!

  2. Geeze I really hope things work out with the acquisition. Hopefully, you’re company won’t feel too much of the corporate stuff since you’re still not in their headquarter building. Maybe you’ll be spared.

  3. That workaholic culture really had me disillusioned for a while when I was still working full-time. I want a career, but I also want a personal life….is that too much to ask? (I think it might be these days, since there are so many people willing to sacrifice in order to maintain their careers….)

    Either way, I hope things work out for you. Good luck!

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