How can two fierce competitors merge into one stronger, more connected organization?
When Prime Communications acquired Spring Mobile, their merger would become one of the largest authorized telecom retailers in the country, with 2,200 stores and over 10,000 employees. Each organization had unique brands and distinct cultures. Deutser was enlisted to help with the transition and create an identity that could not only bridge the differences between organizations, but encourage the workforce to remain with a company they could believe in.
The Human Approach
Our team conducted extensive diagnostics on both companies, including more than 150 individual interviews with our team of social scientists. The data showed a deep divide - culturally and operationally. We then brought the two leadership teams together for an open, honest and revealing discussion. Neither team was excited or optimistic about the future together, and initially challenged its ability to be successful. But, the open exchange of feelings and ideas was paramount. We created an environment where the president of the new company was able to bring both teams together with a promise for a new, unified identity.
We created a framework that was new to both, but had the capacity to bring forward parts of each. We were able to help the leaders get aligned around an exciting new vision, purpose and humanized values. This informed and inspired the naming and brand approach where we combined the legacy “spring” mark which had the appropriate attributes for the desired brand personality with the Prime name, which carried strong brand equity and operational expertise. A new humanized set of values and behaviors were established and the Prime Way, which we called Primer, was established. With agreement at the top of the organization, the outward transition and important enculturation could begin across all levels of the organization.
The Prime Way was introduced in multiple ways across the company with learning and engagement tools. Our creative team in collaboration with our social scientists intentionally chose to remove technology from any presentation, going against the grain of what the workforce was conditioned to expect. Instead, each store and employee received a “Primer box” with an engaging 4”x4” square Primer book and a slinky. The slinky represented the growth and change we expected and reinforced the spring brand and the new iconography of the logo. We also wanted to drive the message that it is okay to have fun – and some of the most basic tools and tactics are still the best ways to connect and move people forward. The slinkys can still be found in back rooms and showroom floors and have created the link from the past to the future.
The Lasting Change
The most impactful metric for any acquisition or merger is sustained performance. And, few companies have and continue to perform like Prime. They have continued their dramatic growth, and performance. They remain a defining example of performing the right way within the AT+T company. In the first year after Deutser’s engagement, Prime experienced increased employee happiness, productivity, and retention of more than 50% of employees and 100% of managers across all locations, even as other retailers and businesses followed the national retail trend of mass resignations. This retention improvement increased operational success and added significant dollars to the bottom line. They do what few companies have been able to achieve - create an open environment for dialog and challenge, even at the front lines, so that everyone understands where they sit in each moment. This has created an intentional culture where people have bought into the company and its vision, and are the owners of its success.