Competitors To Coworkers: Zillow And Trulia’s Key To Merger Success

by Dora Wang on Feb 19, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Zillow logoOnline real estate giant Zillow has just acquired its former competitor, Trulia. The deal is done, but more work lies ahead: these two companies have to figure out how to go from being rivals to merging under a united identity. Just because they’re both part of Zillow Group now doesn’t mean they automatically know how to work together.

The Importance Of Cultural Compatibility

This transition is at the top of CEO Spencer Rascoff’s mind. “[O]ur main strategic priority for 2015 is the successful integration of Trulia,” he says. And key to that integration is culture.

Luckily, according to Rascoff, the organizational culture of Trulia matches well with Zillow’s. Both are “consumer-oriented,” says Rascoff, so “every major decision at Trulia and every major decision at Zillow starts with and ends with an eye towards the consumer, so we are completely aligned in that regard.”

Without such compatibility, Zillow and Trulia would remain separate entities under one name. They might work next to each other, but there wouldn’t be the partnership or camaraderie that strong organizational cultures are made of. Culture is what unites employees under a single purpose—and that helps them support one another and push each other to go the extra mile at work.

How To Overcome Differences

Of course, not all mergers are lucky enough to to come with matching cultures. Sometimes a partnership has to be built from organizations that have sharply different approaches to the same business.

When HP and Compaq merged, they came with two opposed decision-making styles: systematic versus spontaneous. The resulting clash of cultures created a lot of conflict during those first few years, and the combined organization needed to address that conflict in order to survive.

So how do you navigate this kind of disharmony? Unfortunately, you can’t just cross your fingers and hope your employees learn to mingle. Leaving your merged culture to chance is a surefire way to lose people and profits to infighting.

Lay the groundwork for success with these three principles:

  • Be explicit: Make it clear what the new culture should be. Is one company being assimilated by the other? Are you trying to create something new out of the best of both cultures? Your employees need to know what vision they’re working towards and what values should guide them.
  • Be transparent: Lack of communication will make your new culture tank before it gets off the ground. The members of each organization need to learn to trust each other, and that won’t happen if they can’t rely on their leadership to be up-front.
  • Be a guide: Model the behaviors you want to see from your employees. If you want teamwork to be one of your company values, create spaces for brainstorming and collaboration. If your new culture needs to be customer-oriented, make sure customer service staff have the training, resources, and support to make that happen.

Zillow and Trulia's integration is already off to a great start with the alignment of their values. With conscious effort and attention, they’ll be able to build the unified organizational culture that will make their merger a success.

 

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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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