Shari Yocum is a Managing Partner and co-founder of Tasman Consulting LLC, a women-owned boutique consulting firm based in San
Francisco that specializes in HR consulting for
mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and restructuring, particularly the human capital integration challenges that arise from these transformations. She recently spoke with KCRA’s Liz
DeVito about what it takes for HR to be a key
player in a successful transaction and how Tasman
Consulting’s unique value proposition can help.
: Human capital
risk has emerged as a consistently
critical area for deal success. Why?
Yocum: I think it’s a combination of
first-hand experience and a growing
body of research that has put a long
overdue spotlight on the human ele-
ment in mergers and acquisitions. The
people who put together mergers and
acquisitions—CEOs, CFOs, invest-
ment bankers, and strategy consul-
tants—tend to be left-brain, logical,
analytical thinkers, who put more
weight on the financial and strategic
benefits of a deal than on the human
factor. Experience has taught them,
however, that it’s the intangibles of
culture, talent, and leadership that can
make or break a deal over the long-
term. There is a growing body of em-
pirical research that further proves
this, providing an evidence base that
not only informs the business case for
a proposed deal, but also ties human
capital risk to the deal valuation.
: How does this
impact HR’s traditional role in
Yocum: HR is being brought into the
deal lifecycle at a much earlier stage,
sometimes as early as the acquisi-
tion target screening process, and in
a role with expanded responsibility.
Take due diligence, for example. HR
has always been responsible for the
HR-related aspects of financial and
legal due diligence, such as the costs
of compliance with international la-
bor laws, executive compensation,
and benefit plan integration. More
recently, HR is tasked with organiza-
tional due diligence, responsible for
assessing cultural fit and the change
management costs that might be re-
quired to harmonize cultures.
: How can HR talk
about culture to executives who perceive
it as a soft factor in deal strategy?
Yocum: When the conversation turns
to culture, make it all about the business. It’s the only way that non-HR
people will listen to you. They want
to understand how culture is going
to make the new company more efficient and productive or how it might
impact their go-to-market strategies.
A strong capability for integrating
culture enhances brand equity, too.
You want buyers and targets alike to
know you’re a company that not only
knows how to execute a deal, but can
also integrate cultures to drive deal
value. It goes a long way in the deals
market to have the kind of brand that
makes companies want to talk to you.
: Tasman is a
young firm that’s achieved an
impressive growth in just five years.
What’s made it so successful?
Yocum: If I had to sum it up, I think
it’s because we’ve walked in our cli-
ents’ shoes. We know what it takes
and what’s at stake when it comes to
the human factor in transactions and
restructuring. Each member of our
team has 10-plus years of experience
in corporate M&A. Our co-founders,
including myself, held executive-lev-
el positions at Cisco Systems, where
we worked on more than 160 transac-
tions spanning 50 countries, totalling
between $1 million and $7 billion.
We bring clients a unique perspective
of practical and useable advice in the
context of this senior advisory model,
but we have no issues rolling up our
sleeves to get the work done.
: What’s on the
horizon for human capital consulting
in corporate transactions?
Yocum: There are some interesting
things going on with social network
analysis, in particular as it helps clients understand acquired companies’
informal networks and target key influencers who can support integration
efforts. We’re also doing interesting
work in China, where the government wants to merge SOEs to make
them more capable for international
competition. The HR factors at play
are significant, as merging SOEs are
challenged by their existing compensation systems, lifetime employment
approach, and governance structure.
8 FEBRUARY 2016 Consulting®