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Ownership Transition – Oh, Boy!

by Cheryl Smith-Rizk, Vice President

So, you sold your company and agreed to stay on for a short period of time or forever or anywhere in between.  Good decision, bad decision, how is it going to work? Can it work?

Having someone else run your \”baby, \” no matter what the circumstances are, is never easy. If someone who sold their business tells you otherwise, don\’t believe them.

All the things you took for granted when you owned the business fly out the window-coming in later than starting time (because you were working from home, took your kid to school, met someone for coffee or had a dentist appointment, etc.) is now not appropriate or appreciated. Taking a 2 hour lunch, popping out to get a Starbucks or run an errand is no longer acceptable. You are an employee and you are expected to act like one. I had a client who sold their business, and the first couple of weeks were so busy training the new owner – learning new software, filling out insurance forms and reassuring the staff that the sky wasn\’t falling – that the seller and the owner were working 10 hour days. But, as things began to even out, my client assumed that leaving early on Fridays to go play golf or drive to the lake, was acceptable. He had always done that. Guess what – he didn\’t get to do that anymore.  I remember him asking me, \”So, I have to use my vacation when I want to leave early or play in a golf tournament, even for charity?\”  Yes, you do. Reality check.

Be prepared for conflict, even if you are excited about what the buyer has planned for the company. The owner might not let your golfing buddy, Mr. Smith, pay 60 days in arrears, but insist Smith pay like every other customer. In other words, be prepared for some ruffled feathers, hurt feelings and some \”what did I agree to\” moments.

Selling your company is never easy, no matter how much money you made. It is a part of who you are.  So, be realistic about staying. Very often, staying past a certain time frame doesn\’t work.  It isn\’t that the buyer is a bad person or isn\’t doing a great job with the company; it just isn\’t yours, anymore.

If you sell and decide to stay for a period of time, be realistic about the time frame. Talk with the new owner about your concerns, and make sure you know what is expected of you and what your boundaries are.  Being upfront in the beginning is one of the best things you can do yourself and the new owner.  It doesn\’t mean there won\’t be some not so great moments, but hopefully it will lessen them.

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