Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Mergers and acquisitions are notoriously tricky to navigate from a leadership and culture perspective. They require a thoughtful approach to working with a new CEO and joining teams as one workforce – a journey familiar to us that Auth0 recently acquired.

Okta and Auth0 have their share of differences – we’re focused on the enterprise, to begin with, while Auth0 is more on the developer – but shaping the future of identity has always been a shared goal. Since the acquisition was completed earlier this year, Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace and I have come a long way in discovering the best ways to embrace our differences, unite our teams, and learn the ins and outs of each other’s leadership styles. get to know.

Our journey thus far provides lessons for other CEOs who are going through post-acquisition partnerships with a new co-CEO or other C-suite leaders. Here are my best takeaways from working together over the past year.

Do the preparatory work beforehand

It’s worth putting your company’s vision on paper prior to an acquisition – it helps you put your goals in writing, which you can then easily share. Before our acquisition, I wrote a long article outlining my five-year vision for Okta. While articulating Okta’s vision is a big part of my role as CEO, I had never laid it out in this kind of written format (which turned out to be longer than I intended – 15 pages!).

The exercise allowed me to reflect on Okta’s growth over the past 12 years and what’s to come.

Our employees may think we sound like broken records on these integration priorities, but aligning with values ​​has helped drive clarity and consistency across our teams at a time of change.

Eugenio found it helpful to understand my point of view as we began to learn how best to work together and bring our two companies together. He had actually prepared a similar document outlining his vision of success if we joined forces. These vision documents have helped us align our goals and illustrate how we want to scale and take advantage of our huge market opportunities.

Identify common ground in how you lead

With each new C-suite rental or partner, it helps to build a relationship by finding common ground and shared values. Eugenio and I knew we were both equally committed to implementing the same “North Star” integration guidelines: sustainable growth, putting our customers first, continuous innovation, protecting our brands and empowering our teams.

Our employees may think we sound like broken records on these integration priorities, but aligning with values ​​has helped drive clarity and consistency across our teams at a time of change.

In addition to our mirrored core culture values, Eugenio and I share similarities in our leadership styles and personalities that complement each other. We are introverted people and we even have the same Myers-Briggs (INTP) score, which translates into a natural leadership chemistry. We both take responsible and trustworthy leadership seriously and understand each other’s work styles. Eugenio has a deep product and technology background, so we can get very technical when discussing and making decisions about the future of our joint businesses. Our shared background also allows us to effectively share and receive feedback with each other.

Ultimately, understanding your new partner’s unique style and how you are similar (and different) can help you collaborate more efficiently, make faster decisions, and build momentum quickly.

Tap on the strengths of both teams

Acquisitions indicate that a significant success threshold has been crossed for companies on both sides of the deal. To acquire or be acquired, companies must do something is true and it is essential to identify the strengths within both organizations that have reaped such rewards. Combining the elements of each team promoting an overall synergy while protecting the unique areas is essential when joining forces.

For example, Auth0’s collaborative culture has already helped Okta rekindle its startup spirit. It’s not an easy task to maintain the same scrappy energy from the early days when we chased our first 10 customers (we now have over 14,000), but Auth0 has introduced a new perspective on innovation, while still leaving room for our respective brands. and individual strengths. Auth0 is a brand loved by developers, and its remote-first nature has also helped us navigate a dynamic work environment this year. By leveraging the strengths of the acquired company, you can drive your growth in new areas.

When in doubt, over-communicate

In the early stages of an acquisition, success depends on deliberate and frequent communication with your new partner and team. Hold meetings and check-ins regularly, both with new leaders and with your wider workforce.

This year we have held regular full-company and integrated all-hands meetings, and we’ve made these meetings deliberate and transparent. We set agendas around decisions we’ve made, things that won’t change, and what’s undecided, as a way to keep employees informed while staying honest about what we’re still figuring out. Any acquisition will inevitably lead to discussions about office spaces, merged benefits, and team integration timelines, and giving employees an open line to ask questions and share concerns helps create clarity and build trust.

Acquisitions can test your team’s strength and threaten existing tight-knit cultures, so purposeful communication is needed to keep everyone on the same page and working toward the same goal.

It is worth making the collaboration a success; Eugenio and I have been working together for less than a year, and we have already benefited greatly from each other’s perspectives and backgrounds as we move forward in this next chapter.

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