Business Transition Rumors, Leaks and Lies

By Tom Kirk

So… you think the day is approaching when you may want to transition some or all of your businesses ownership to someone else. You have already done the soul searching necessary to answer the questions of Why, What, When and How Much (see previous blogs I have written for resources to help you answer these questions). Because most of this work so far is introspective, you have been able to keep your cards close to your chest, focusing on what a business transition means to you and what you would like to have happen.

But the next big questions are Who and How. Answers to these questions will require discussing your business transition vision with others outside of your innermost circle, which can be risky. That is because everyone may not react favorably to the knowledge that the ownership of your business may be changing. Key employees might feel insecure about their future with new ownership and choose to leave ahead of time. Your best customers and clients might worry about whether they will continue to receive the service to which they are accustomed, encouraging them to investigate their options. As bad as this sounds, it is even worse if your business transition gets delayed or eventually falls apart for some reason.  Then you might suffer employee and customer problems like these for no good reason!  But once the news is out, it is hard to take back. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it can’t be put back in.

Another mile post along your Transition Roadmap is to develop a communications plan that addresses the following: who needs to know; what do they need to know; when and how are you going to tell them? It works best to start sharing information and ideas with others on a need-to-know basis, getting non-disclosure agreements along the way. That way, if your business transition plans fall apart, fewer people know about it.  

But eventually conversations with bankers, accountants and attorneys will be necessary, even before your deal is final. Phone calls, emails and other correspondence will be flying around. People are going to find out. You must anticipate this with your communication plan and proactively tell the story as you want it heard instead of the lack of information being filled with inaccurate speculation, fear and worry.

Your communication plan will address the big question each person and group of people will have about your possible future business transition, “How will this affect me?”. If in your communication plan you convey the benefits others will experience (i.e. business continuation and growth) and address the fears they may have (i.e. continued employment) you have a better chance of less disruption to the future of your business whether the possible business transition actually occurs or not.

The key to a good communication plan is intentionality. Early on you will only want a few people to know, and only what they need to know, in order to keep moving forward on your Transition Roadmap. Eventually you will want everyone to know what is coming and to be excited about what that future means for them, for you and for your business.

Going from an idea in your head to where everyone knows what is coming and is excited about it take a plan and a Roadmap is your best tool. That is why we offer The Transition Roadmap Developer TM; a transformational process that takes into consideration the practical, financial and emotional aspects of your unique business transition challenge and delivers a customized step-by-step plan of actions.

All small businesses transition eventually.  Be intentional about how you want this to happen. Call today and schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our WealthCoachesTM to see if The Transition Roadmap Developer is the process you may want to investigate for improved clarity in this critically important area of your personal and business life.

You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this publication serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from FirstWave Financial. A copy of the FirstWave’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.