How to keep your team informed and happy when selling your business

Posted on: 11 Mar 2024

There’s a lot to look forward to as you work towards selling your business, but one aspect that you may be dreading is telling your employees about your plans. You may have visions of walkouts, angry words and perhaps even tears; however, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Approach this with a well-thought-out plan and clear intentions, could help to mitigate any potential negative fallout.

Having exit specialists like The Exit Partnership on your side can help, too. We’ve helped many business owners through every step of the journey – including telling the team.

Read on for four tips on how to tell your employees about the sale of your business.

1. Decide when you will tell the team

As the latest instalment of our secret seller series revealed, there are two main approaches you can take when it comes to telling your team.

  1. Tell your employees early on. It could be good to get your team on board as soon as possible, but the selling process can take a long time, which may lead to uncertainty and unhappiness within your team. Or,
  2. Tell them after most of the legwork has been done and the majority of the details of the sale are set in stone. This can help avoid team members leaving before everything’s finalised, and prevent a sour work environment. However, when you do eventually tell them, if you’ve left it too long, they may feel left out and not a priority in the sale.

2. When you tell your team, be transparent and honest

No matter when you tell your team about the sale, they will almost certainly have questions and concerns.

These questions may come when you tell your team about the sale, or in the weeks afterward. Whenever they arrive, make sure you answer all their queries as transparently as possible.

Additionally, if changes happen after you tell your team, keep them updated and informed. This can help to retain good morale.

If you fail to keep your team in the loop, rumours can quickly start to spread, and you may lose a handle on the situation.

That said, be careful not to overload your team with information. Set a need-to-know limit and stick to it. If new information comes to light that is relevant to your employees be sure to tell them; however, they don’t necessarily need to be told about details that do not affect them.

3. Look out for your team in your negotiations

The main concern for most of your employees will be what will happen to their jobs.

If you can, stick up for your team when negotiating with your buyer. After all, as our Head of Strategic Exits Brian Hill says: “It’s important that we look after the staff because they are the ones who, ultimately, will probably be looking after your clients.”

Can the buyer absorb some or all your workforce? If they can, will the buyer be able to offer a guarantee that your team’s wages will at least remain the same if not increase?

In the unfortunate event that your buyer cannot retain your staff, can you offer some form of payout to your team from the sale proceeds?

Though you are the business owner, and you rightly deserve credit and financial compensation for what you have built, you could not have done it without your employees – particularly the longest-serving members of staff.

As such, you might want to consider offering a payout to your team members based on their length of service.

4. Don’t let the day-to-day running of your business slip

It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress of selling your business. However, if this means you take your eye off running your business while you still own it, you could dent employee morale.

If you do allow your focus to be taken away from normal activities in favour of working towards your sale, employees may struggle to see the point of keeping up with their work. They could even start looking for other jobs and leave before your sale goes through.

Though it may be difficult, it’s best to continue with a “business as usual approach”.

Get in touch

If there are aspects of selling your business that you are worried about, working with an experienced team like The Exit Partnership can help. We’ve stood beside many business owners as they undertake the exciting and sometimes difficult steps towards exiting their businesses. To find out how we can help you, email contact@theexitpartnership.co.uk or call 0113 4656 111.

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