A Tech Guide to Aquisitions

Recently, the company I work for acquired another business. Due to the timing of the acquisition, I would be doing the on-site tech setup of the acquisition solo.

Even with weeks of preparation, projects like this will always be intimidating.

It was a colossal undertaking but I emerged on the other side with the acquired location being fully operational and at a cost of only some sleepless nights and a handful of skipped meals.

As always, I think it’s a good idea to reflect and pass on any tips when prudent. So here is a quick rundown of things to consider if you ever find yourself in this position. This will not go into any detail as each acquisition will be unique in its needs and challenges, so I’ll try to stick to more universal points. Hopefully, anyone who has ever had a similar experience can empathize and share a good laugh.


1. Pre-plan until you dream of checklists

  • Consult your knowledge base and any previous acquisitions (successful and otherwise) to learn from the past. Hopefully if not you, someone else has already created plenty of documentation and notes from any previous acquisitions. Knowing what went wrong will help you avoid these pitfalls. Keep in mind that not everything will be documented, so any previous knowledge found should be treated as supplemental information and not a complete road map.
  • Know who to turn to. Acquisitions, even solo set-ups, will never be a one-person job. Most companies, even small businesses, have several other service providers, contacts, and businesses that they do business with on a regular basis. Try to brainstorm a list of all the services that would need to be set up, changed, or canceled at the new company and touch base with appropriate contacts well ahead of time in anticipation of the acquisition. Also consider which of your current company’s contacts will be relevant in the move. Will you need to contact an electrician, who is the go-to contact for pin-pad support? Having a list of contacts, making sure they know who you are, and preparing them for any future support (without breaking any confidentiality agreements) will be essential.

    In my case, I had to work closely with two companies that manage the two software/service platforms my company uses for sales and inventory. It was crucial to keep them informed on a nearly daily basis of the acquisition progress after closing since they had to manage a lot on their end to get the new site operational.

    Here are some examples of services/contacts to consider:
    • Internet
    • Phone/fax
    • Alarm systems/security
    • Facilities/electricians
    • Point of Sale Providers
    • Contact for software support
    • Network managers or facilitators
    • Music/entertainment subscriptions
    • Site’s current IT/tech support
    • Acquisition site’s managers
  • Recon recon recon. If you have a chance to take a personal tour of the facilities prior to the acquisition and tech transition, take it. Being able to carefully document the existing technology and noting all relevant information will make everything after closing goes more smoothly and can help you massively with the preparations before the close. Barring physical recon, there’s a lot of recon you can do remotely as well.

    Here are some things to look for during this phase:
    • Check out their network setup. This includes network devices, ISPs, WAN configuration, access points, switches, patch panels, ethernet ports, POTS lines, etc.
    • Workstation setups. This includes the number of workstations, printers, peripherals, OS versions & types of licenses. Nothing can throw a wrench in mass domain joining than a cluster of computers with Windows home.
    • If you are keeping any of the location’s existing monitors and/or computers, take a note of the video ports in case you need to replace any. You may have a bag of HDMIs ready to go, only to find computers with only Displayport connections and monitors with only VGA.
    • Infrastructure: this depends on the type of business but nobody wants to get a 1gbps switch, promise the company 1gbps speeds, only to find out that the max possible WAN speed is 200mbps.
    • Current IT/Tech operations. Does the company being acquired currently have an IT support staff? Do they outsource their IT needs? Will IT staff be acquired as well? Do employees have a company email or do they use personal emails?
    • Web presence. While this may fall more in the purview of marketing, it’s a good idea to be aware of the previous location’s web presence. What domains was the company using, will any need to be purchased, transferred? Will marketing need any help with any web or social media tasks?
  • Can’t get into the building ahead of time? There are still ways to get info such as:
    • Asking people already there
    • Dropping in as a “customer” as a blind recon sweep. (check with your managers before doing something like this)
    • Checking to see if Google Maps has an inside tour of the store
    • Any other OSINT on the building/business to get info
  • Get all the shit you need, then get more. Supply chain and inflation woes aside, finding and getting all the right equipment you need for IT operations can be a serious challenge. Ideally, you have a beautifully organized warehouse with racks full of top-of-the-line IT equipment that you can pluck and ship to the new site in preparation for the acquisition. For most of this, this is not the reality.

    If you don’t have all the equipment you need for the acquisition, make sure to make your orders well ahead of time. Any last-minute orders may be worth it to ship to the final destination. Just make sure there’s someone there to receive it.

    Always have backups when possible. Here are some things that should be on any IT setup checklist for a new location.
    • Lots of ethernet cables, of different sizes (don’t forget the 1 ft. cables for patch panels)
    • 5-8 port POE switches
    • Velcro/zip ties for cable management
    • A good tech toolset/work-mat
    • Plenty of video cables of several kinds (recon will help you figure out which to get)
    • Some USB wi-fi antennas
    • Several USB drives with relevant drivers, installers, Office, MSI files, installation media Windows/OSs in case you have to reimage any machines or install useful programs
    • a few extra keyboards/mice, especially for any server installs
    • a few blank computers with updates and preloaded as much as possible for plug and play

Give yourself enough time—then add a few days. No matter how much time you think you need to complete the job, you will find yourself almost always realizing you need more time. In some cases, this is not a big deal. You might simply be able to take more time to finish. But other jobs may be on a tight schedule. If you have to travel to complete the tech side of the acquisition, then consider the added hassle of having to change your itinerary and all the related costs.

If the company bosses expect to have the new site operational by a certain date, it’s always best to underpromise then overdeliver. Be conservative about the time it will take for the installation, and always keep in mind that you will always have a lot more tasks to complete than what’s on your checklist.

Sure, it may take 3 workdays to finish the tasks on your list, but never fail to consider unplanned tasks. Maybe you still have to handle tickets that may pop up those days, maybe the site will do a rolling transition and people will be asking for your help on a hundred separate tasks that will pull you away from your list.

During the solo job I just completed, there were days when I could not even get to my checklist until the evening because other issues, questions, and requests continued to pile up during each workday until I began to run out of days and had to start putting those issues on the back burner and tell people to wait until the larger items got addressed. Nobody likes being told to wait, but prioritizing tasks is essential, and communicating effectively while not being dismissive is always important. You will be stressed, but there’s no need to spill that stress onto others who may be just as busy and stressed as you are.


2. From closing to mission complete

Pre-close recon. So you’ve probably done some recon ahead of time, but in my case, I was not able to visit the site until the day of the acquisition deal closing. I spoke to the company managers and the CFO ahead of time and asked them what, if any tasks, I could do on-site before the business closing. The last thing you want to do is to start messing with things that don’t belong to your company yet and get the whole deal thrown out.

In my case, I was allowed to walk the premises, take photos, and unpack the boxes of equipment I’d shipped to the location, but I couldn’t touch or modify any of the existing equipment.

I took the opportunity to make a more detailed inventory spreadsheet, took note of workstation information, printer models, and began downloading appropriate drivers to my computer in anticipation of a print server I knew I would eventually create.

There’s probably a lot you can still do before the acquisition is finalized, just don’t do anything without getting the green light from both parties!

Prioritize your tasks and manage your time well. This was touched upon in my previous point about giving yourself enough time for the project. You need to have a clear list of tasks and prioritize them. Try using the Eisenhower Matrix to decide what tasks need to be addressed first, which can be delegated out, which can be scheduled for a future time, and which tasks are not worth addressing during the project. Check out this chart from

Do what you can, communicate for what you cannot. A recurring source of frustration for me during the last job was 3rd party collaborators dropping the ball during key moments in the project. It’s easy to throw up your hands and walk away, yelling “not my problem!” but as an IT specialist, it is still your responsibility to make sure things come together, even with tasks that are outside your immediate control.

For example, I spent hours after the business closed making the network switchover happen. After the final patch panel connection to our brand new switch was made, I ran to the Meraki network device web portal hoping to see the green color that would tell me it was working. It was not. I scrutinized all of the steps and could not find anything wrong, so I made sure our WAN2 connection was up as a backup and decided I would call the ISP in the morning. That’s when I learned that the uplink configuration information I had been given by the ISP was wrong, and once I got the right info, it immediately began to work. I had no reason to doubt that the info I’d been given was wrong until I could test it after hours.

It may seem frustrating to encounter a roadblock like this especially when you did nothing wrong. I had external collaborators on this project make several mistakes that affected my tasks, but the best thing to do when this happens is to communicate. Call the person responsible and tell them what you know. If they knew they’d made a mistake, they would have corrected it by now, so the sooner you can share with them what you know, the sooner it can be resolved.

This is why it’s important to be proactive. If you can establish communication and troubleshoot any of these issues ahead of time, don’t wait until the last moment to reach out.

Shit will hit the fan, be prepared. No matter how much experience you have, or how prepared you think you are, there will inevitably be things that go wrong. It is the way of IT. If and when they do, don’t panic, think through it, and have plans B, C, and D ready to go. If you don’t have plans A, B, and C, make them.

In the previous example, I gave of the ISP giving me the wrong configuration information, I was able to get WAN2 working as a backup. But what if I couldn’t?

Anybody who needed to access the network the following morning wouldn’t care too much about the reasons why the network is out or whose fault it is. They just want to know when they can expect the issue to be resolved. If you are in a situation where systems are not working, communicate to the appropriate manager, give them the relevant information, and go from there. Even if the issue may seem like it’s out of your hands, your managers may be able to escalate the situation to another contact if the matter is urgent or may recommend a different course of action.

As always, communicate, be reasonable with your promises, and be prepared for catastrophe.

3. Finishing up

Tying up loose ends will be important to leave things running as best as possible. There will always be more things you can do: systems to optimize, cables to manage, and equipment to upgrade and replace. It’s important to figure out what tasks can be handled in the long-term and what tasks you need to take care of before leaving. If the site is far from home and coming back won’t be easy, make sure you have remote access to the machines in the building so you can take care of tasks once you leave.

You should have clear goals of what needs to be up and running and when from your company.

Perhaps POS workstations need to be up and running along with the new network, but perhaps having the computers join the domain and email for any new employees created should happen later.

For remote support, it’s helpful (when possible) to have new employees set up with a company email, have them educated on how to reach IT support, and have remote access to all workstations there. This will make it easy to resolve issues even when you are no longer on site.

Careful documentation will probably be the last thing you want to do after a project like this, but it’s best to record all relevant information while it’s still fresh on your mind. Take notes on:

  • Things you wish you knew before the install
  • What went wrong
  • Interesting findings
  • Any changes you’d like to make to systems
  • Missing equipment
  • Helpful contacts
  • Things to do differently next time


4. Enjoy and reward yourself for a job well done

Hopefully, it went well, but even if it didn’t, it’s still going to be necessary to take some time to rest, recover, and take care of yourself.

Catch up on sleep, go for a hike, and have a few drinks. Do whatever you love so that you can come back to work refreshed and not dragging behind all the stress of the project.

It may be a good idea to get some PTO approved for some R&R after any large projects like this.


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