Survival Lessons from 3G Capital Takeovers at Burger King and Heinz

What would you do if your career depended on how you answered three questions in a fifteen minute interview with the new CEO?

That’s what faced the headquarters staff at Burger King upon being acquired by Brazilian-owned private equity firm 3G Capital in late 2010.

And, earlier this year, the leadership team at H.J. Heinz went through the same experience when they became 3G’s latest investment.

The three questions, discovered by Fortune reporter Jennifer Reingold:

  1. What have you done for the brand?
  2. What can you link to driving sales traffic or relevant financial metrics?
  3. What suggestions do you have for the company?

Tough stuff for sure.  As Reingold relates in her article:

“It was nerve-racking, another former executive says.  People were throwing up in the bathroom because their whole career comes down to this.”

Image: iStock.

Image: iStock.

Surviving new management is difficult, especially when it results from merger/acquisition activity.  New bosses often want their own people, regardless of the strength and talent of the incumbent teams.  While assessments can be legitimate, they’re more likely to be incomplete, arbitrary or just a formality.

If you’re on the receiving end, the overall process probably seems unfair, and there’s little you can do about it.  Except, plan ahead for next time.

Photo: iStock.

Photo: iStock.

Start Now and Get Prepared

Think about those 3G questions, or a similar list, as key drivers of what you should be focused on at any given time.  

It takes discipline and being properly connected to the business to ensure that you’re working on the right things all along, and getting important results. Avoid the traps of managing from fear and constantly looking over your shoulder.  That’s not a winning formula.

Instead, continuously manage and lead from strength and conviction, knowing that you and your team are doing the correct, on-strategy work that the company needs to deliver its objectives.  Rely on what you can control: earn respect and produce excellent work.  Odds are the results will follow.  

Here’s a key, guiding thought to keep in mind:

If you had to succinctly, quickly, and persuasively boil down what you do and why you/your team is important to a new boss, could you do it?

Another Example

Taking a similar, but perhaps more inclusive approach, a new president at a former company of mine asked his direct reports to answer seven questions.  I share them for your consideration and preparation:

  1. Name/identify 3 to 5 things Our Company does really well or is going well.
  2. Name/identify 3 to 5 things Our Company needs to improve upon.
  3.  Name/identify 3 to 5 things regarding competitors that I may not have heard or observed yet.
  4.  Name/identify 3 to 5 areas of risk that I should be concerned about in This Fiscal Year and Next Fiscal Year.
  5. Give some thought to where you would like to be in your personal career in 3 to 5 years.  I want to make sure I understand everyone’s career aspirations as we move forward as an organization!
  6. Identify 3 to 5 obstacles that you see may be standing in the way of your career aspirations.
  7. Something meaningful (but not urgent) that doesn’t fit into the above questions that you should be aware of (this would have been easier to explain in person, however I hope you’ll take this in the positive spirit that I intend).


Maybe you’ve faced these types of challenges.  How did you handle it?  What did you learn?


3G Capital takes a rigorous (some would say ruthless) approach to newly acquired companies and their management teams.  Just ask the folks at Burger King and Heinz.  However, there are important takeaways to increase the odds of successfully navigating your own career well-being.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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