Our CEO Jim Donaldson reflects on the first six months of FleishmanHillard Fishburn and shares what he’s learnt.
Amazingly it has been six months since the merger that created FleishmanHillard Fishburn, the firm I am so proud to lead. The time has flown by and we have started 2016 very strongly with some great new wins and a brilliant new culture that combines the best of two great firms.
As a corporate communications specialist, I have for many years advised clients on culture change and integration from big mergers to major change programmes. But this is the first time I have been doing it as an insider, developing and leading a programme for a company I am so closely involved with. It has been an interesting few months, perhaps the most valuable and important period of my career to date.
So what have I learnt? A few things have not surprised me – the need to communicate constantly (and more than you think) with the team both personally and as a group, the importance of listening, finding as many reasons as possible to do things together, creating a direction and vision for the new entity – and of course, keeping all of our clients informed throughout the process. And as I have said a number of times, I have not been surprised that the merger has turned out to be a positive move. Despite the naysayers, we always felt we were a natural fit together – FH is a global network with global clients and Fishburn had some fantastic UK-based clients along with an entire new practice in Corporate Reporting. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
So what were the surprises from our first six months as FleishmanHillard Fishburn? Here are my top three learnings from the experience.
The first is that you should expect the unexpected – always. Issues or opportunities that seem obvious may not be as straightforward as they first appear. People who you thought would be natural partners sometimes need more time to build a working relationship and conversely those who you were worried about can show a new lease of life almost immediately. Reactions to what you say may be the opposite of what you were expecting or that had been the case before. So keep an open and flexible mind on what might or might not happen and move with lightning speed when something unexpected comes up.
The second surprise was the positive reaction of our clients and our colleagues around the world. I wasn’t expecting hostility on either score, but the support and desire to help has been almost universal and the desire to know what we are doing in London has been very strong. I think that we have had more visitors to Bankside in the last six months than the London office has had in the last 5-10 years. New services such as our first class Corporate Reporting offer have been welcomed with open arms by FleishmanHillard’s offices around the world, and many clients have been both impressed and interested in what we are doing. They want to know more and they are willing to talk to us about how we might be able to help them – particularly around our digital and creative offers. So make sure you keep talking to a broad range of your internal and external stakeholders – and do it all the time.
The final learning for me was how much fun we can have together when doing all this. Yes, it has been a high-stress period but I have made new friends and learned new things about leadership and our business whilst having an amazing experience. And if that’s not a good enough reason to get out of bed in the morning, then I don’t know what is.
Onwards to the next six months – I can’t wait to see what they will bring.
Jim Donaldson, CEO