How to Walk Away After You Sell Your Business
After you have completed your business sale, it’s time to make an official announcement. Doing so in the proper way will ensure that the employees and business partners remain on good terms with the business through the transition phase.
There’s no strategic reason for you to keep news of your sale quiet anymore, though buyers of restaurants or retail shops sometimes shield customers from the news until a transition period is complete and concern over a client exodus appears unnecessary.
In announcing the sale, consider this advice:
Step 1 - Tell Your Employees
- Either immediately before or after sale closing, tell key employees before making the announcement to all staff. If you can, avoid email in favor of a personal presentation made by both you and the buyer.
- Stress that the announcement is confidential for a limited time during which customers, suppliers and others must be notified.
- Briefly explain why you’re selling. Just as the buyer wanted to know, so will your staff.
- Introduce the new owner, explaining your confidence in the buyer’s expertise and plans before turning the floor over to the buyer to explain how employees will transfer to the buyer’s organization; the buyer’s plans for continuing business as usual (if so) and for embarking on growth plans (if any); and plans to meet individually or in groups with employees over the coming days and weeks.
- Describe the timeline, including when the sale will be made public (and therefore how long confidentiality is required) and when you, personally, will be departing.
Step 2 - Tell Customers, Suppliers, and Business Associates
- First share the announcement personally with key clients, suppliers and business associates, including those whose support is most valuable to the business. Move quickly, because you won’t want these important contacts to learn the news from others, media reports or competitor communications.
- Next make a general announcement, contacting individuals directly if the list is short or via an email or regular-mail announcement if the list is long. In your announcement, provide an upbeat, positive explanation that conveys enthusiasm and confidence. Explain that with great pleasure and after considerable planning you’re pleased to announce that your business has a new owner. Introduce the owner through short description that conveys your confidence in the buyer’s expertise and plans. Share a short statement about why you sold, what you’re doing next, and how long you’ll remain with business, if you will. Include a copy or link to a complete announcement, perhaps attaching the news release you’ll distribute to media outlets.
Step 3 - Announce the Sale to News Outlets
- If appropriate, prepare a news release or sale fact sheet whether you feel news outlets will carry the announcement or not. Doing so will put all facts into a single document you can distribute to local publications and broadcast stations, as well as to blogs and industry-specific news outlets.
- In the release or fact sheet, present who to contact for more information (and how), when the news can be released, the date of the announcement, a headline summarizing the announcement, and a clear presentation of facts. Consider also including a quote from you or the buyer and a photo of the buyer.
Step 4 - Move Aside
- Even if you remain with your business during a transition period or thereafter, the business now belongs to a new owner. Help staff, customers and business associates transfer their confidence to the buyer of your business, and move yourself out of the visible leadership role unless your agreed-upon ongoing role specifies otherwise.
Step 5 - Move On
- You’ve done it. You sold your business! Now it’s time to set a new goal. Chase a new dream. Buy a new business. The choice is yours. Congratulations!
Editor’s Note: This article is the 25th and final piece in a series taken from BizBuySell.com’s Guide to Selling Your Small Business. If you have questions about buying or selling a business, please tweet them to @BizBuySell. I will answer them in future columns.