While confidentiality is the name of the game before a sale, openness and transparency are the watchwords once a sale is finalized. In this article we’re going to speak about what buyers need to accomplish in their first meeting with team members.
Meet in Person
Do not call employees over the weekend to “prepare” them for a Monday meeting. This will start a game of telephone that may end up with no one showing up on Monday. Make sure that you meet in person so that these team members can get to know you in person.
Food makes so many events in our lives better and more memorable. A change of business ownership is certainly an event worthy of food. Find out from the seller what some popular food items have been in the past or what company traditions are regarding food.
Explain the Continuity
Sometimes sellers arrange for the sale to be a complete exit with no transition, but that’s pretty rare. Usually the old owner is around the business in one form or another for at least 90 days.
This meeting offers an opportunity for a feel-good “same team” moment in which the former owner mentions:
- his/her ongoing availability (when is the last day of transition, if relevant)
- positive traits of the new owner (underline that this was just as much the seller’s choice as it was the buyer’s)
- excitement about what’s to come (the seller should coordinate with the owner and mention what one or two positive changes that might be coming down the pike)
The former owner also needs to signal a changing of the guard and that decisions now need to be run by the new owner. This will take some getting used to!
This is also a chance for the new owner to return the favor. Talk about:
- what was attractive about the business in the first place
- what led to pursuing a transaction
- any interesting discoveries during the diligence and closing process
The new owners shouldn’t be afraid to lavish praise on the company and the team. There will be plenty of time to get back to work, but this is a moment to pause and celebrate. Not all businesses are worthy of a sale, and the compliment paid to the whole team in an acquisition should be driven home.
One of the positive changes that a new owner can offer is a pay raise. While this may not always be possible, even a very small raise would still symbolize a positive change and make sure employees realize from the start that their livelihoods are not in danger. This could also be tied together with letting everyone know that there will be a retention bonus for all who stay up to a certain date. Those bonuses can be settled in individual private meetings.
Ask for Feedback
Also prepare employees for those private meetings by letting them know you’re going to be asking them for frank feedback. What should the company stop doing? What should it start doing? How do employees see their future with the company in the short and medium term?
Apart from things related to the company, employees should be prepared to share their own personal and professional goals. This will give both the new owner and the employee a chance to see whether there’s any synergy between things that an employee is pursuing personally that might find an outlet professionally.
For example, if someone is working on being a better public speaker, could that same employee be given more opportunities to speak publicly for the company in given situations? If an employee is passionate about a particular local charity, is there a chance for that charity to offer a volunteering event for the company in general? Just because something hasn’t been done before shouldn’t rule out possibilities in the “new” company.
One of the most important aspects of any successful business is the quality of its employees. Since they probably know nothing about the new owner, this is the perfect opportunity to make a great impression on every level. Don’t ruin your first chance to make a great impression.
We’ve actually been present at a few of these meetings and can help you make yours great. Ask us how.