First of all, you need to have a very clear-cut game plan prior to the merger. You have to define the social issues and identify the consolidations you want to achieve. You need to have a business plan before you contact a partner. If you don't, you spend an awful lot of time after the fact figuring that stuff out. But if you've done that, everybody's on the same page of the hymnal.

You have to keep in mind that the point of every merger is to accomplish the consolidations yet preserve the franchise. Avoiding disruption of customer service has to be a very strong consideration. You can't make consolidations transparent to the customer, so there will be comments and questions. But you can make it more customer-friendly. If you're merging data centers, for example, be sure to pick a time when it's not too busy. We would never convert our data centers between Nov. 1 and the end of January because there's just too much yearend business that could slip through the cracks.

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