While you may have been working towards selling your business for a while, one of the major factors you will eventually need to consider is telling and preparing your staff for the big change.
Assuming you’ve been a good boss, this can be a moment of uncertainty for your employees, a time when stress and anxiety are at the high point. Answering to a new regime can effect employees in different ways and this can be compounded if you haven’t built in any safe guards during the sale.
While it’s important to tell your staff as soon as possible, you should at least wait until the deal is done before you do so. They’ll obviously have a lot of questions and the more certain things are, the better you’ll be able to explain and set their minds at rest.
If you let the cat out of the bag too early, you risk providing fewer answers which can lead to panic and rumours that will ultimately be damaging to your business.
A lot will depend on your company structure and how many staff you have, of course. You may need to bring in a small number of employees early on in the sales process to provide information to the buyer. It goes without saying that you should select these individuals carefully and ensure they don’t start telling everyone in the office what’s going on.
Once you do let everyone know that the sale is a done deal, it’s important to be as open and supportive as possible from the outset. While all staff may be taken on by the new owners, there is always the potential that some posts will either no longer be needed or will have to change in some way. There is, of course, legislation in place to protect employees during any takeover or transition and business owners need to comply with this.
It makes sense to have a plan for preparing staff for a change in ownership. You may want to tell close associates or senior staff first and work something out together. It can help retain important senior employees if you give them a certain amount of ownership of the transition – the last thing you want is vital cogs in your company’s operation to start running for the exit.
The next step is to tell the rest of your employees. Compassion should be at the heart of this as you may get varying reactions depending on how secure or risk averse staff are on a personal level. This can be doubly difficult if you have built close relationships with your employees over the years. Setting minds at rest can take time and reassuring employees is something all senior management will need to get involved in.
The people buying your company may well have their own process in place and you’ll have to work with them at the same time. Ensuring that you are both on the same page when it comes to existing employees is vital, especially if there is restructuring to take place or if some staff will face redundancy. That’s also why it’s so important to find a buyer who shares your views and values rather than simply opting for the best offer on the market at the time.