This is a question I am frequently asked by a client who is looking to sell their business. Should I confide in my team and if so when and what will happen if the sale doesn’t go through? If I tell them they may run scared and look for another job and the value of my business will be affected before I even go to market.
These are not easy questions to answer and it may not always have the same answer but by and large, I would recommend that a vendor does confide relatively quickly in at least their top team.
The reasons are numerous but here are some of the main points:
They will trust you and it will be much easier to deal with if you tell them rather than the chance it will slip through the gossip chain.
You may need them; whether it’s for the provision of information for a buyer, or that the buyer will need to meet them at some point because of their specific role. You can incentivise them to work with you towards a great value rather than take the risk of them not supporting a sale, due to worrying about their own position.
Of course how you tell them it is important as in this market not every deal completes, you need to make them aware this is a distinct possibility and if it doesn’t complete, what your plans are for both them and the company.
You also need to ensure they understand how important confidentiality is.It’s one thing confiding in your key staff, quite another for it to be cascaded down the ranks and worse still, externally.
Deals are taking up to a year to complete in this new age and that’s a long time to maintain a confidence, so this point cannot be emphasised enough.
Throughout the period keep those you have confided in up to speed with deal progress, lack of information causes undue worry and negative speculation. If it is not going well tell them and if it’s going great, likewise.
Across extended deal periods, business performance can change dramatically and what is essential is that all parties concentrate on the business in hand, not the sale, leave that to the professionals handling the sale.
In order for the team to do this they must not be allowed to worry unnecessarily about matters they will have little control over, so keep them informed.
Most business values rest in the people that work for the company in one form or another, whether it be the red hot sales person with the connections to die for, or the operations manager who ensures everything works like clockwork.
Whoever they are, it is recognising their worth and treating them with the respect they deserve, that will smooth the sale process.
Where I have had clients who have not heeded this advice, the ramifications have not always been positive or indeed pleasant and as this situation can so easily be managed, think first before you operate a totally secret process.
Jo Haigh – Partner at fds Corporate Finance and Cracking Boards
Telephone: 01924 376784 / 01484 860501
The winner of the Sunday Times NED of the year award, Claridge’s 14th March 2013.
My latest book: The Keys to the Boardroom, how to get there and how to stay there, due for release October 2013.
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