Business owners often struggle with the decision about whether or not they should tell their employees that they are going to sell the company. This is especially complicated in a small business, where you are likely very close to most of your employees. You may feel like you are deceiving them, or be concerned about what will happen if they find out that you didn’t tell them.
There is no right or wrong answer in this instance. In smaller businesses, it is common for the owner to tell the employees what is going on with the business. Depending on the reason for the sale, they might already know that something is going on. If you have been talking about retiring for the last six months, and haven’t brought a family member or a replacement in to start training, they may not be surprised when you tell them that you are going to sell the company. Conversely, if you have been discussing expansion, hiring more staff, and everything seems to be going in the right direction, they may be in for a shock if you tell them that you have decided to leave.
Many business owners wait until they have a serious buyer who is ready to close before they tell their employees. There are pros and cons to this approach. It may help to protect the business itself if the employees don’t know that you are selling. When an employee knows that you are selling, they may feel like their job is threatened and start looking for a new one. Often they start gossiping, and it may get out to customers that you are selling the business. Even if they don’t, it changes the dynamics in a business when the main leader is no longer committed. If your employees are concerned about the longevity in their position, you will likely see the effect in their work and attitude.
It may seem like the best option is to keep it from your employees that you are considering selling. If they don’t know that anything is changing, they will remain committed, hard working, and keep the business on the track that it is currently headed. However, don’t forget that even if you don’t tell your employees that the business is for sale, at some point they will figure out that something is going on. It is very difficult to hide when a potential buyer comes through the business, at the very least your employees will suspect that they aren’t a real customer. If you don’t tell them up front, and then they find out later that you misled them, the effects may be worse than if you had just been up front in the first place.
Regardless of the route that you choose to take, we treat each business transaction as completely confidential. All of our agents are trained to require that every potential purchaser sign a confidentiality agreement before discussing the specifics of any business, and we stress to each of our clients that it is to be strictly enforced.
In the end, you are the only one who knows what the best decision is going to be in your circumstances, who you should tell, and what you should tell them. We will support you 100% and do everything we can to help ensure a smooth, peaceful transition.