Secret Seller episode 8 – Telling the team

In episode eight of our secret seller series, our seller takes us through one of the most dreaded aspects of the process – telling the team.

If you’re not up to date with our secret seller series, make sure to read episode seven on agreeing a Share Purchase Agreement before diving into this month’s edition.

Right at the start of our journey, Brian and I had discussed when to tell the team. There are two schools of thought on this subject: telling the team early to get them on board, or telling them later to avoid any upsets.

Getting team buy-in early sounds great, but the selling process could take months, which brings uncertainty. This could result in the admin team having a knee-jerk reaction, looking for new jobs and – my personal worst nightmare – leaving us very short-staffed!

I decided to leave it until later in the journey, and that time had come.

10 months had passed since my initial conversation with Brian, and four months since accepting the offer. At this stage, we were hoping to complete within two weeks.

We invited our two succession consultants over for breakfast at our house, lulled them with a full English, and then broke the news.

They took it well. Both of them had been wondering what the future was going to look like as I had been managing staff, compliance, finance, marketing, and the general running of the company with no sign of bringing on new blood for the past six months. They knew something was going to have to change soon.

The merge would mean more security for them both, access to more support, opportunities for the future and pay rises.

As both spend most of the time out on the road, the office closure would not affect them as much as it would the other members of staff whose turn it was next.

I can’t say I was looking forward to telling the office staff. Visions of tears, people storming out, and accusations of “how could you?” all flashed through my mind, but it had to be done.

Before the meeting, I wrote out bullet points of areas to cover:

  • Recent changes in the office such as staff not being replaced and no new office manager.
  • Inability to find someone wanting to accept the responsibility of compliance, management, and finance.
  • Looking at the future and deciding to merge.
  • Details of the company we were merging with (larger, similar client proposition, same ethos, nice bunch of people who we think we can work with and who can do more for our clients).
  • Job security – everyone gets to keep their jobs!
  • What’s in it for the staff:
    • Better benefits
    • Salary increases
    • They will become shareholders in the company
    • Better career prospects.
  • The biggie – the office will close, and all work will be home-based.
  • The timeline of what will happen next.
  • A request for confidentiality – we don’t want news getting out until everything is agreed.

We gathered all the team and announced the news. There were no tears – in fact, one of the team members suggested getting out a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. There was some nodding of heads and acknowledgement that they knew that changes were needed. There was even concern over what would happen to the older consultants and me.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well it went down!

Later that day, a member of the team did decide to leave. She didn’t want to work from home and had felt change was coming. She had been headhunted over the past several months and decided not to wait to hear what her new contract would look like.

Could I have saved her? Possibly not. I did feel we had been on borrowed time with her for a while.

This, however, did make us officially short-staffed – one of the reasons I had left telling the team until so late in the journey. Let’s hope completion happens when it should so that the all-important extra support from the team is forthcoming!

Get in touch

If you are looking to sell your business and want help with tricky parts of the process such as telling your team, speak to Melo. Email or call 0113 4656 111.


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