After the Acquisition: How to Merge Two Distinct Cultures

When Synnex acquired an innovative software, it came with 30,000 IBM employees and a whole new atmosphere

Every business has a company culture, but it’s an intangible quality that only the employees experience. SYNNEX Corporation, an information-technology supply-chain distributor, has worked on creating a culture of calculated, but fast-paced decision-making that fosters an open environment. But when Synnex acquired a new technology from IBM, 30,000 IBM employees came with it, which included a merger of two efficient, but very different, workplace atmospheres.

The man behind the acquisition and subsequent employee merge is Simon Leung, Synnex’s general counsel, senior vice president, and corporate secretary, and he is responsible for global legal affairs, global compliance, and corporate development, including mergers and acquisitions. Synnex, as a company, is entrepreneurial and always in search of new growth opportunities for its two segments: technology solutions and Concentrix, which is everything from technology solutions for an IT product to doing mass mailings for insurance companies and banks. “We look inside our core competencies for growth, but we also do ‘outside the box’ thinking,” Leung says. “We’re constantly seeking to expand our offerings.”

Synnex’s 2013 acquisition of IBM’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) business was a huge growth initiative. “Synnex wanted a larger geographic footprint and a greater portfolio of blue chip customers, and IBM wanted a complementary partner that could help grow its offerings,” Leung says. “Both companies saw it as a perfect fit, and the relationship ended up being very synergistic.”

Once the acquisition was agreed to, the question was how to merge two distinct work cultures. “The IBM team members who came over were ingrained in the IBM way, which is conservative and very process-oriented,” Leung says. “SYNNEX, on the other hand, is more entrepreneurial. Our focus is the ‘three Vs’—visibility, velocity, and value. We’re trying to meld the conservative, process-oriented IBM culture with our ‘three Vs’ to get a new and improved culture.”

Several factors contributed to the successful melding, including the existence of SYNNEX Project Management Operations to set the tone and assist with the integration. “It also helped that the IBM team who came over had an entrepreneurial streak,” Leung says. “The culture at SYNNEX was the culture they aspired to achieve. Of course, it helped that the IBM business was a good business to start with and that both companies were motivated to see it succeed. It’s been a thoughtful integration.”

And he’s seen the results. Although there were so many employees and locations being integrated at once, Leung says that he’s seen a ton of new, hard work from his team. “Our people pushed past what they thought were their capabilities, and they just blossomed,” he says. “By bringing over the process-oriented team from IBM, we were able to incorporate the best of the IBM culture to help us with decision-making and execution.”

Leung said the best advice he ever got was to surround himself with the best people, and he sees that advice in action with the IBM acquisition. “The IBM people are top-notch talent,” he says. “Being able to surround myself and the other executives with such a strong team has made the acquisition so much easier.”