How to keep your career on a safe track
Last updated: 13/08/2007 12:41:14
During merger-mania, with Groups growing, territories reorganising and manufacturers restructuring, it can be quite a stressful time for an employee.
The worry for most people is that events are happening that are outside their control. A decision can be made in a smoke-filled boardroom (the smoking bit is probably illegal nowadays, but you get the picture) that could affect you and your family's future irrevocably.

There are no guarantees of safety in a reorganisation but some always seem safer than others. The wise ones will stay ahead of the game and make sure that they always have options. Without assuming the worst, they will keep lines of communication open with manufacturers and with other companies in their market.

Although there is nothing clever, or even new about this, a large proportion of you will be reluctant to do the same thing. Insurance policies are usually advisable, and that is just what giving yourself options results in - insurance.

If you don't take out insurance in this way, you can find yourself like those tragically caught ouyt by the recent floods - surprised by a sudden redundancy after a take-over.

Why could it happen to you? It is never simple, and there are a variety of reasons. A mistaken belief that you are indispensable, a loyalty to your old and new masters, a reluctance to change, or simply that you were too busy to look after your own interests, may all leave you blissfully unaware that you are about to be "downsized".

Now, I do not want to suggest that as soon as there is a hint of a take-over in the air all the staff take to the hills - I will not be thanked for that by any of the more acquisitive Groups out there. The nature of employment in our industry is changing, however, and it is as well to be alert to the possibilities for your own career when a change occurs.

As in all things, all I would urge is that people retain a sense of balance when new bosses take over. Different companies have different ways of operating, and these themselves may differ according to the type of business taken over.

Some myths about almost any take-over.

  • All the old staff will be retained - there will nearly always be some movement, purely because as in all new relationships, not everyone will get on with each other. Anyway, many of the drivers for takeover involve making savings (savings = job cuts very often).

  • All the old staff will be changed - even more unlikely, especially as without the old staff there is no business.

  • They will certainly keep the best performers - maybe not, they may also be the highest paid and likely targets if cost cutting is needed.

  • The company is profitable, it will all continue just as before - this almost never happens. Businesses are taken over to improve them and even if you are in the most profitable dealership in the area, there is always more to be done, or costs to be saved.

  • We will all stick together if they try and change things - you won't, and you would be idiots to try. However insecure you feel, open rebellion will only undermine your position. Besides, however loyal people are to each other, they have mortgages and bills to pay, and in the cold light of day that is there primary concern.

Take-overs mean change and change is stressful. The outcome can be good or bad, and it is sometimes difficult to read which way it will go. However you feel about them, they are here to stay. The next three years will see the most far-reaching changes we have ever experienced in this industry.

Individuals are unlikely to be able to change the overall picture. What you can do is stay realistic about your own position, keep your options open and maintain communications with colleagues in other businesses. This is not being disloyal, it being practical, you need to have plan B if others do not feel you are right for them.

Above all, though, stay cheerful. The industry may be struggling for a direction right now, but those who emerge from it the stronger will dictate that very direction at the start of next decade. (Yes, believe it or not 2010 is just around the corner.)
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