The transaction is complete. The keys have passed to the new owner. This is what you, your team and investors were aiming for, and your bank accounts have become a lot larger.
You’re selling your firm to garner liquidity for the team and your investors, to bring products to a larger market through new channels or because it’s the right time to sell.
For the acquirer, buying your firm gives them faster pathways to new markets that organic growth can’t. They don’t need to build new products and technology, and they get talent specialized in new products or new markets. If they’re buying a competitor, they’re reducing competition.
You may wonder if the acquirer truly understands your products, values, culture or the customer needs that drive the business. Staff will wonder if there’ll be a place for them as a part of another company. These concerns are valid, and you should seek answers as you go through the sale process.
Keep in mind the acquirer is also in transition, though their experience may not be as stressful as yours. Despite their extensive due diligence, it’ll take them months to roll out their integration plan, and that’s a process likely to change several times before it’s completed. The best-case scenario has you and your team as key guides.
To increase the chances of getting the full escrow, you and key employees should consider staying on through the transition period.
Below are six guiding principles that will set a transaction up for success. I’ve gained these insights by guiding my own company through the M&A process, successfully transitioning it to become a business unit and running it within a $2 billion public company for many years. I’ve also been on the other side, helping transition other companies through M&A and working with both buyers and sellers.
There’s more than meets the eye
When purchasing a company, the buyer acquires client lists, patents, products and infrastructure. They also buy talent, networks and institutional knowledge. All of this will take time to understand and sort through.
A lot goes on behind the scenes. Unexpected changes could lie ahead, so it’s essential you’re emotionally able to deal with this uncertainty. There may be a battle of wills, and as a leader you need to get ahead of these issues. Lead the charge by pushing for the right changes. You want the acquirer to get their money’s worth out of the transaction, so push for decisions you believe are correct to ensure a smooth transition.
It is absolutely critical that your team knows you are advocating on their behalf as well. For example, I made sure that all of my team was offered positions in the new organization and compensation and responsibilities were in line. I also negotiated so all tenure with the private acquired company would count as tenure in the acquiring company, as this affected vacation times. The last thing your team should see is you negotiating a “sweet deal” for yourself and leaving others behind.