In late September 2019, II-VI Inc., led by CEO Chuck Mattera, completed the nearly $3 billion acquisition of Finisar Corp. The acquisition was announced a year prior, and wrapped up just before a pandemic would sweep across the globe, seemingly complicating the company’s integration efforts. Fortunately, Mattera said, the company actually started planning for the acquisition for quite some time before.

“We've done more than 20 (acquisitions) before that, so we've had a lot of experience inside the company,” Mattera said. “And our opportunities, as they've grown, we've added more talent to the team that have such experience. I would say planning was about 80 percent of it.”

So, despite COVID-19, everybody in the company knew exactly what they needed to do and got on with doing it. The pandemic might have caused some pause, but Mattera said the company quickly reconfigured itself and got back to business.

“In the 15 months or so that we've been operating at it, we just announced earlier this week that we'll actually achieve our synergy target that was set for three years, we'll achieve it in two years, and we took up our total synergy target again for the third year.”

Speaking at the Pittsburgh Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, Mattera said II-VI had engagement with the management team at Finisar while the integration was being planned. That gave his team a good sense of what they had judged the culture to be, but it’s tough to be too confident when some 22,000 people are affected.

The integration process, Mattera said, began with the II-VI human resources team going out to a few hundred employees quickly, right after the acquisition, to get a sense of the compatibility of both of the cultures and find the balancing points, the common denominators and the differences.

“And what they found was, what i judged early on, and that is that the cultures were a great, great match,” Mattera said. “But the other thing that we did based on the knowledge that we found, the knowledge that we derived, is we realized, I realized, that both companies each had overlapping values, but had different values.”

Mission, vision and values, Mattera said, are all extremely important. So, he decided to change up the values for the combined company.

“And we disclosed what the new values were to the company on day one. And I asked the entire new company to adopt these values,” he said.

In constructing the values, Mattera made them easy to remember, underpin his view and legacy he’d like to leave with them, and make them easy to remember — a declaratory statement for everybody in the company. Those values became integrity, collaboration, accountability, respect and enthusiasm. And to make it easy for everyone to state, no matter what language they speak, the values were encapsulated in the acronym ‘I CARE,’ and became a fundamental commitment that everybody brings to the enterprise.

“Having had a stated set of values right at the outset (of the pandemic) allowed us to drive across the whole company in response to both opportunities in the market and threats associated with the virus in a very cohesive way,” Mattera said. “And I think it moved us forward by one or two years at least in the integration.”

Mattera talked more about how the company navigated the pandemic, the Finisar acquisition and integration, as well as his insights from being a public company. Play the video above to catch the full conversation.