You’ve come to the end of the sale process and the business has now been handed over to the new owner. It can be a strange feeling, not being intimately involved in something that, over the years, has been such an integral part of your life. Many people look forward to the weight of the business being lifted from their shoulders and to enjoying new freedoms but they often find that leaving the past behind is harder than they expect.
It may be difficult emotionally. Longstanding staff and business associates, who may have worked with you for many years, have become trusted friends. As one business owner put it to us: “It was like selling my family”.
The sale of a business is often a big surprise for staff and so you need to think carefully about how to break the news. Despite the fact that many sales lead to a business growing and entering new areas, staff often assume the worst – that there will be job cuts. If this is not the case, reassure them right away, jointly with the new owners. If there are going to be some job losses, then give particular thought to how this can be communicated as positively as possible.
Handing over a business can take anything from a day to many months, depending on what you’ve agreed with the buyer. Longer handover periods typically involve earn-outs, which provide the new owner with reassurance and can also help the business, customers and staff adjust to a new structure. For you, it means time to plan your disengagement with the business and have a ‘gentler departure’.
You may wish to move straight on to another business venture. The most obvious idea might be to start a new business within the same sector, taking advantage of all your experience and knowledge of the market.
But, be warned – many Sale and Purchase Agreements contain anti-competition clauses designed to prevent this happening. It is reasonable for the new owner to want to protect their new business from any commercial damage that may be inflicted by the departing owner. These clauses operate for a limited time, typically around 2 years.
“It’s easy to overlook all the issues that crop up when you actually leave your business. There can be more to this than you may have previously considered.
“Be prepared emotionally and prepare a plan. However, despite the complications, it’s something to look forward to, so make the most of it!”
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