It’s about the right expertise, experience, objectivity, perspective, time, focus, communication, and education.
When all of us begin to deal with areas that we are unfamiliar with, we often turn for advice and guidance to those who have more experience and expertise in the field. And so it is when a merger, acquisition or consolidation is being considered. Or even earlier in the process, when potential options to expand programming or grow enrollment rapidly want to be explored. Or even more commonly, when strategies and tactics to address a difficult enrollment and financial environment are being pursued.
Expertise is the principal reason leaders of higher education think of when considering an external consultant. And it is true that many consultants bring to the table expertise. Expertise that is relatively infrequent.
But do they bring experience? Because the one thing I have learned as someone who actually led two different consolidations, is that experience counts the most. Experience that is relatively uncommon in higher education. But not all consultants have ‘on-the-ground’ experience. Unique among consultants, all SPH Consulting Group team members have served in leadership and administrative roles during mergers, acquisitions, or consolidations in higher education. They get it.
While expertise and experience may be the reason that a consultant is selected, there are many more reasons to hire an outside consultant when considering these major corporate transformations in higher education.
For starters, seeking outside counsel from an expert and experienced firm will provide needed objectivity and perspective. Impartiality and a different perspective that is often in short supply when transformational options as emotionally charged as a merger is being considered. Consultants can provide external analysis and due diligence that is critically needed when making these types of decisions. Information that will help validate any decision that is made – whether to proceed or not with the proposed transformation. And dispassionate external validation to a decision provides the added benefit to institutional leaders of what we euphemistically call ‘air cover’ – protection for leaders that would not exist if they had chosen to make these decisions alone.
In addition, hiring the right consultant allows the appropriate amount of time and focus to be given to considering the pros and cons of the option. Leaders in higher education are busy individuals. In fact, in an analysis of some 40 mergers occurring since 2000, it was indicated that “successful” mergers seem to involve the decision-makers who were managing their institutions well. All leaders, regardless of how experienced or outstanding they may be, have limited bandwidth and attention spans. And, good decision-making and analysis around major institutional restructuring require significant time and attention. Time and attention that leaders cannot afford if they are to manage their institutions well, while also arriving at the best and most informed decision. The right consultant will serve to ‘extend’ the leaders’ time and focus, providing careful analysis and due diligence for ready consideration and decision-making.
Finally, the right and experienced consultant will be able to assist in communicating and educating important stakeholders including boards, executive leaders, and key community members concerning the environmental challenges, the potential options, the process forward, and much more. While these individuals may not always listen to their own, they almost always listen to national experts. Experts that SPH Consulting Group has in abundance.
When a merger, acquisition, consolidation, corporate conversion, or other major institutional restructuring is being considered, hiring the right consultant should be able to provide the right expertise, experience, objectivity, perspective, time, focus, communication, and education. Critical benefits, when major and uncommon options need to be considered and decisions made in a timely manner.
To learn more about SPH Consulting Group and how we can help your organization, contact email@example.com.
Writer: Ricardo Azziz, Principal, SPH Consulting Group.
© SPH Consulting Group 2023