You’ve sold your business for a great price and the moment has arrived for you to communicate your decision to your employees. How you manage that task will usually determine how smoothly the rest of the sale process will turn out.
So let’s look at some specific concerns your staff may have when the news breaks:
Is my job safe?
It’s only natural that your workers will fear the very worst, so it’s up to you to have arranged with your buyer to prepare for this moment.
Hopefully, you will be able to get your staff together and reassure them that their jobs are safe long before the rumors start. In most instances, the quality of your workforce will have been an important factor in helping you gain a good selling price. So make it clear to them that their expertise and potential were a central element of the sale. Sending out such a positive message will help your workers feel a part of the process. Having shared the news with them, you should then keep them informed about how the transition arrangements will be rolled out.
Will my role change?
Recognize that any change is likely to raise anxieties about new roles and responsibilities.
Your buyer will usually want to begin by achieving at least the same returns that the company managed under your leadership. This in turn means the new owner will be looking to maintain stability within the new business. This would need to be reflected in what is demanded of your employees and that they perform to their customary standards.
Though this will allay some initial fears, if possible, you would do well to be able to obtain your buyer’s permission to mention that any future plans for expansion or diversification would be built around the company’s existing strengths.
A statement along these lines would help to encourage your staff to feel they will continue to have a stake in the future of the business.
What will happen to my salary?
It’s important to acknowledge that staff will want to hear about the economic impact of any change in ownership.
You will normally be able to reassure them that success has been achieved through their efforts, and that securing the same level of business performance is the best way to ensure that present salary levels can be maintained. The new owner may even wish to introduce bonus or incentive schemes as a further demonstration that your workforce has a bright future under new management.
Will this be different business then?
If the business were to be refocused to any great extent, it would be beneficial if you and your buyer agree how this is communicated. You can also begin paving the way for later developments before any handover. This will have the further benefit of being able to give your staff new information as early as possible and offer added reassurance about what will be asked of them in the future.
Will my new boss be a nightmare?
Your buyer will be keen to maintain output and performance at their former levels and should share your wish to reassure employees about the future of the business.
The best way to achieve this is to invite the new owner to take part in carefully choreographed joint sessions with the staff. If these are properly planned in advance, your employees will be able to meet their new boss in circumstances which highlight the values you both share as well as demonstrating to all that you have every confidence the business will remain in good hands.
Will I lose any benefits?
All employees, especially those with many years of service, will need to hear that their employment benefits will be unaffected by any changes. This is another matter where, as the present owner, you can inspire confidence when making pronouncements about the future. However, the clearest message, and thus the most valuable reassurance, is ideally provided by an unequivocal confirmation from the new boss in a joint (upbeat) forum addressing the transition and the future.
Passing on a business to a new owner is a delicate operation, but if you are as open as possible with your people, you can do much to make the transition to your company’s next phase of development as seamless as possible. It may also help to remind your team they have amply repaid the trust you placed in them at the outset, and that the same spirit should be more than enough to ensure their new future will be equally successful.
By Bruce Hakutizwi, USA and International Accounts Manager for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses. Bruce has over 7 years’ experience working within the US business transfer marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.