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Millions of businesses successfully operate in the U.S. each year. Yet, there comes a time when some businesses need or choose to sell. In fact, BizBuySell reported that 9,093 businesses sold in 2023, slightly ahead of the 9,054 that sold in 2022. There are many things to consider when planning to sell a business that you’ve likely poured your heart and soul into, including how to take care of your employees when selling.  

Why Sell Your Business 

The decision to sell your business can be driven by many factors. First, and most commonly, personal circumstances change. That is natural, right? Personal circumstances include increasing age as an owner approaches retirement or desires to do something different at his/her stage of life. Health changes can cause serious concerns, family circumstances can change including the death of a spouse or children, and perhaps there are personal financial situations to consider. Second, a desire to sell due to a change of personal desires or goals. For example, is there something else you want to accomplish, or is there a feeling that selling your business would make you happier? Third, assessing one’s relationship with a business can prompt a change of direction. Fourth, perhaps there is a change in the value trajectory of the business that makes selling much more appealing. And fifth, industry or market conditions may change prompting a desire to sell.

Whatever the driving forces, it is critical to consider the many implications of a business sale, especially determining how to motivate and retain employees when selling. 

How to Manage Personal Stress When Selling Your Business 

Selling your business can be stressful. There can be sadness at the separation and loss of something that has been so central to your life. There might be guilt and regret if the circumstances aren’t as favorable as you had wished. There can be fear of the unknown. There can be some uncertainty and anguish over a loss of control. And there can be discomfort with the entire process.  

The ways to deal with that natural stress include a major focus on planning and preparation along with a large dose of self-education. Stress can be reduced as you focus on the reasons that you are selling and as you remain open to changes and new opportunities. Stress is reduced as you take the actions to keep yourself physically and emotionally healthy. You will want to understand the buyer and be mindful of all the potential sales terms, including making sure to take care of employees when selling. And you will greatly benefit from the advice and support of expert business advisors.

How to Care of Your Employees When Selling Your Business 

Taking good care of employees when selling your business is critical. As Richard Branson has famously said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” Ignoring that sage advice can lead to business ruin and may result in a failed sale. 

First, carefully plan for the sale. If business changes or job cuts must be made in advance of the sale, make them deliberately in advance so as not to “jerk the ship around in the wind.” Know what timing makes the most sense and use that timing to guide your actions. 

Second, make smart, clear, and concise communications. Don’t keep people in the dark and don’t let the rumor mill drive employees crazy. Communicate what is necessary and keep that communication current. That can include holding employee meetings so that employees are fully aware of what is going on and feel that their needs and concerns are heard. 

Third, consider incentives for employees when selling. Incentives can include stay bonus agreements, phantom stock agreements, increased salaries, and additional perks.  

Fourth, make sure that employees feel appreciated using things like informal get-togethers. 

Fifth, include employee care like compensation and outplacement assistance in the sale documents.

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