When should I tell my employees the business is for sale? Part 2

|Acquisition Q&A

In Part 1 of this two part post, we shared the importance of waiting until the last week or two before closing to share business sale news with your employees. Today, we’re going to dig into some best practices buyers and sellers use to have a seemless notification:

As the seller, take time to strategize with the buyer about how and when to notify employees. Don’t wait until the week before closing; instead, spend time earlier in your diligence process talking about your strategy. We often see great success when buyer and seller have outlined a strong 100-Day Plan prior to closing so they can hit the ground running. This plan should include the notification of employees and any immediate business changes. Here are some things to consider as you put together your plan:

Prepare a master Q&A list. When an employee hears of a potential sale, the first things they ask are, “Do I still have a job?” and “What’s in it for me?” Prepare a document of thoughtful responses to the most common questions so you’re ready when asked. Some of these questions include: will benefits change, will their manager remain the same, will new software be implemented, will they still have a company car, is the company name changing, etc. It also ensures that everyone is reading from the same script when answering questions so that managers provide consistent responses to their teams.

NSometimes it makes sense to have two or three closely timed notifications, where the managers are informed first and then later that day or the next day the shift workers are notified. This gives the managers time to process and ask questions and be “up to speed” by the time their team is notified.

Do it together. It’s great when the seller can “pass the torch” to the new owner together. Then the employees get to meet the new owner immediately. If applicable, have HR reps onsite to help employees transition their employment and benefits over to the new company.

Make it a fun and memorable experience. It can bring some office camaraderie when the new owner brings in breakfast or lunch for the office and has a celebratory meal together to kick off the new transition. This is going to be a day that the company remembers so find ways to make it a cheerful event. Maybe pass out some fun company shirts and hats or raffle off some gift cards.

Be honest. If positions are cut, be honest with employees who will be affected. If an employee will only be retained for a short transition period, consider offering a short-term retention bonus to keep them engaged while the company transitions. Do what you can to help your employees find new work – maybe extra flexibility if they have job interviews during their last weeks, let them know if you hear of job openings they might be suited for, etc.

Ultimately, the best advice is to prepare and put a plan in writing so everyone understands their role and can communicate the same expectations across the board. Yes, there may be hurdles to overcome, but you'll be ready to handle them. When you present a well-communicated, united front as buyer and seller, you bring a confidence in the company's future to your team.

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