Written by Amber Brunning, Guest Contributor.
Selling your business is an important decision that affects not only yourself, but the valued customers and employees who help your business succeed. If the wrong people are told the wrong things at the wrong time, disaster could unfold, leaving you out in the cold with a damaged reputation and ruin the prospect of a successful business sale. In order to have a smooth transition and a successful deal, it is imperative that you have a communication strategy in place well before you announce the details to your stakeholders.
Your employees have invested time and effort into your company and they deserve to understand the process as much as you do. However, if employees and customers alike get the wrong information, or are told at the wrong time by the wrong people, it could lead to untimely exits from your staff and a drop in sales which only damage the chance of selling your business. Therefore, one of the most important things a business seller can do is to understand how and when to effectively communicate the sale.
A Strategic & Solid Plan
During the early stages, even as you consider selling your business, begin to map out the process of communication – when are you going to inform your stakeholders? How? As a general rule, you should tell everybody as early as you can. This does not mean everyone should be told at once, as soon as you know you’re selling.
Different people will need to know different things at different times. Before a deal is made, only core members of your team and those who can help benefit the sale should be told.
Think about who you trust and make sure they understand the confidentiality of the matter. Key accounts, which you deem the most important to the success of your business should be notified as early as possible. Customers and other clients on the other hand should only be told once the terms and details of the sale are in place and accurate and final information can be provided.
Once a deal is in place, it’s important to tell those other than your key employees what’s happening. It’s important to move quickly here so the wrong information doesn’t reach these clients, customers and employees. If the wrong information spreads, the sale may come into jeopardy or the new owner may struggle to succeed. It can be a good idea to coordinate the release of this information with the new owner – but never at the expense of your current employees.
If you’re unsure about the timing of when you should notify each group, experienced brokers, like Digital Exits, can be of huge help. Brokers understand the entire sale process and know how to navigate through the challenges to achieve the best possible results for all involved.
Be Specific & Confident
The reason you should wait for the final terms to notify the majority of people is the fact that, without clear and legitimate information, rumours and false information can be spread which can damage the transition process. In the early stages, it’s strategic to withhold certain information from certain employees and customers.
However, once you do inform them, ensure their concerns will be answered as soon as possible and allow them to have a voice in the matter. Provide the opportunity for meetings, counseling and taking the time to answer questions.
It is also crucial that you express your confidence in the new owner and his ability to continue running the business. Potential buyers should be screened during the sales process and employers, customers and clients will be more relaxed if you explain the amount of care that went into finding the right buyer.
Offering support and showing empathy for your employees can go a long way. Whether you will continue to have a financial stake in the business or not, it’s important that both employees and clients are happy with the transition.
When you are in discussions with the buyer, find out what their plans are for current employees. If it seems unlikely that they will be keeping their positions, giving your employees notice early on can help them begin searching for a new job before they are out of work. If this is the case, offering letters of recommendations and references and pointing them towards any useful resources will help ensure this is a smooth transition for both parties.
Clear communication with all stakeholders involved with your business is key to a successful sale. Not only do you need to be transparent with both employees and customers, you must be strategic in the timing of your notification. Think about who can help you with the sale, think about what large accounts need extra attention and be compassionate and understanding. Having a plan in place before your business goes on the market is important in ensuring the smooth and successful sale of your business.