5 Strategies to Preserve Core Values during a Business Sale

For many owners selling their business is not a simple financial transaction, it’s personal. Owners have poured blood, sweat and tears into building a business that is not only profitable but represents their values as individuals.  Their businesses become not just their livelihood but their self-worth and connection to some of their most important relationships.  The business values and culture are reflected in the everyday interactions with clients, vendors and employees.  Often owners live in the same communities where they operate their businesses and will continue to see and interact with these people long after they sell.  When it’s time to exit, it is no wonder that sellers are so interested in making sure that the company’s culture and values are maintained after they leave.
The best businesses are more than the sum of their physical assets.  The culture and values instilled in the business can contribute far more to its success in the form of goodwill.  Understandably the new owner may want to implement their own ideas about how to improve the business, however it is in both the buyer and seller’s interest to recognize the business’ core values and work to maintain them throughout an ownership transition.
Here are five strategies to make sure that the values instilled in a business are maintained through an ownership transition:
  1. Train management to embody the business’ values -Identify those managers that are likely to stay on through a transition and work with them to understand and exemplify the business’ core values.
  2. Develop a quality manual -A quality manual describes the procedures used in the business.  It is the playbook that provides continuity to day to day operations.  At times of transition the quality manual provides a valuable reference to new and old employees about how the business should function.
  3. Create a transition plan -With successful transactions, after negotiating the sale, buyers and sellers should sit on the same side of the table and develop a plan that outlines at least when and how the transition will be announced to clients, vendors and employees.  More thorough plans include setting goals, priorities and strategies to create conditions for a smooth transition.
  4. Plan to stay around through the transition- Once sold, sellers are often anxious to leave a business and move on to new projects.  However, the seller can serve as an advisor or consultant for a predetermined period of time. This can create much-needed stability and help to maintain a consistent business culture during the transitional period.
  5. Find the ‘right’ buyer – A qualified buyer has more than just the finances to pay the asking price for the business.  They also have the skills to run the business and the emotional intelligence to understand and carry on the business’ unique culture and values that made the business successful. It can be difficult for a seller to run a business while trying to sell it.  Working with a business broker like Exit Strategies Group can be invaluable when trying to find the qualified buyer that also understands and cares about the values of the business they are buying.