A photo of a wedding ceremony isn’t unusual, except one I saw recently was of a bride in a sleeveless dress that revealed many large tattoos. Indeed, that was the most memorable thing about the photo. Not the faces of the bride and groom, her dress, the adorable flower girl, the setting or decorations.

If this bride wanted to be remembered for tattoos, she succeeded. If her partner is similarly adorned, then perhaps they share a love of body art and this is a match made in heaven. Yet, it is curious how often mergers, marital or corporate, ignore the tattoos or think they can change them.

Obviously, I’m not speaking literally here. A metaphorical corporate tattoo could be the look of your facility, the attitude your people display, how people dress, etc. The first time I visited the offices of a business that was in trouble, it was obvious what one of their problems was. They were what I call “proudly defiant.” It’s the adult version of “you can’t tell me what to do” or “I won’t conform to your stupid rules.” The leaders were “proudly oblivious.”

The decisions you make show up as artifacts or habits for which you are known. Do yours convey the message you want? If what you say and how you look are not congruent, others are distracted. Businesses cannot afford this distraction. In a merger of companies, just like a marital merger, the stakes are far too high to ignore the tattoos.

What message are you sending? Ask yourself-

  1. What value do we provide? A value statement answers the question “what difference does what you do, make?”
  2. How is that value represented?
    • If your brand is high-end, it needs polish
    • If your brand is technology-based or enabled, it better work
    • If your brand is about people and relationships, politeness and reciprocity go a long way.
  3. Are we obscuring our value? Intentional or not, you can get a lift from pushing distracting habits aside.

Finally ask, “If we strip away all the deliberate communication, what would our customers, employees, suppliers, investors and others believe about us?” If you are acquiring another company, ask, “What are their tattoos telling us?” If your choices of merger partners or acquisition targets haven’t been great, you would benefit from some help of the non-analytical type.

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