I guess one of the questions I would ask is this: If you have key managers at your company, why aren’t they being included in discussions about your exit planning? It takes a lot of help to get your business sold, and the process is a lot easier if you have somebody internally who is on your side, and also helping you with the burden of due diligence in particular. I see a lot of business owners involve somebody at the company once an LOI is signed and they have moved into the due diligence phase because there is such a huge administrative chore associated with that. It can be hard to manage it by yourself. There’s a lot of pressure during that time, not only to supply all of the information that the buyer is looking for, but I’ve heard a lot of business owners say that they just get exhausted by the feeling that they are living a double life. They’re spending a good chunk of their time -- and certainly a lot of mental energy -- on getting the business sold. Yet they have to keep it under wraps when they are in front of employees and managers. That's hard, stressful and ultimately exhausting.
Some owners are fearful of key people leaving the organization. Of course, the buyer is typically going to want those people to stay. There are ways to reward employees, like stay bonuses or stock, for sticking with you through the process and through a transition with a new buyer. I find there’s often a lot more fear and anxiety around telling management than there needs to be from a practical standpoint.
From the employee’s perspective, they should care about whether or not you have a solid exit plan in place and a strategy for transition. If you don’t, it does not bode well for the business, which does not bode well for them. Also, there can be a lot of opportunity for employees at all levels when the founder sells, especially if the business is sold to a larger entity or a buyer with more resources. Increased potential for career advancement or lateral moves can be a good thing for everyone.
Truth be told, people within the company are already thinking and talking about many of these topics -- like the owner’s retirement or limited opportunities for career advancement at the company -- anyway.