You’ve closed the deal, and the new company is yours. You’re excited and ready to start putting your plans into action. What should you do first?
My advice? Do NOTHING.
Don’t get me wrong. You’ll be doing a great deal while you’re doing nothing, but you shouldn’t immediately start making major changes or implementing your profit, marketing and employment plans in the first few weeks after the deal closes. Instead you should have two goals – get to know the business and get to know the people.
Get to Know the Business
I’m sure you’ve done due diligence and have an understanding of how this new business works, but you can’t understand the details until you’ve been through at least one business cycle with this company. Don’t make radical changes until you’re sure of the consequences of your decisions.
You may have a background in the new company’s industry – or you may not. Either way, you need more information about the company. You need to investigate its processes and its technology. Don’t rely solely on financial statements or reports. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to let your employees teach you about their work. You’ll learn a great deal – most of which will inform the decisions you make in the next few months.
Get to Know the People
That brings me to the people in your business – employees, customers and vendors. It’s rare that a company is sold without its employees knowing something is in the works, and depending on the openness with which the purchase happened, your customers and vendors may know as well.
It’s also a good bet that everyone connected to your company is uncertain about the future, and uncertainty is dangerous. It can slow your forward momentum and ultimately can damage the company. The more you can corral uncertainty, the easier the transition will be. You can counteract uncertainty by being transparent about your plans for the future. Everyone will handle change better if they know what’s coming.
Meet Your Employees
As soon as the formal announcement has been made, meet with your employees. Start with a company-wide meeting where everyone will hear the same information about the transition. You can structure the meeting in a variety of ways, but it’s often helpful to have the previous owner introduce you. You should address the most obvious and immediate questions first. Be honest and as transparent about your plans as you can be, but consider the consequences of announcing radical change at this first meeting. As you think about what to say, ask yourself what you would want to know if you were in the audience.
Depending on the size of the company, you should meet every employee. In large companies, you might “meet” everyone at the initial company meeting. In smaller companies, you should spend some time with each employee. Learn what they do. Those who have been with the company for some time can give you valuable insight into company culture.
Meet Your Customer and Vendors
Communicate with your key customers and vendors as soon as possible after the formal announcement. With today’s technology, it’s possible to send an email at the same time you announce the sale or during the first employee meeting. Your press release about the new company can be launched at the same time. Be sure to time your communications well so that employees don’t hear about the sale from your customers or vendors.
In some industries, you might reap benefits from meeting your key customers in person. In others, share your message with the sales staff so they know what to say. All employees who deal with customers and vendors should have the information they need to discuss ongoing relationships.
How your customers and vendors respond to new ownership depends heavily on how you position it. Some customers may take the opportunity to leave, and you might ultimately change vendors. Preserving and strengthening your brand, however, will rest on how transparent you are and how well you communicate during the transition.
Implement Changes in Stages
One final note: When you stop doing “nothing,” don’t try to do everything at once. Create a plan that will allow you to implement your strategy in stages. Start with the most critical elements and work from there. You’ll be able to communicate your strategy better, maintain transparency, and keep chaos to a minimum with first-hand information about the business and its people and a thoughtful plan of action.
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