How To Get Employee Buy In After You Acquire A Small Business

by Corey Philip //  August 31, 2023

Small businesses are often like a tight knit ‘clique’.  Everyone knows everyone, and often times every employee has regular interaction with the owner.

This means that as as the new business owner you’re the outsider and that can be VERY intimidating.  Particularly for introverts or ‘numbers’ guys that really don’t give off that warm and fuzzy vibe.   As the new business owner, you need to get the employees to buy in to your position as owner of the business (at least) and likely get them to buy in to your vision of the business going forward.   Without the employee buy in your business is just treading water, so the sooner you make it happen, the better.

Personally speaking  I am the ‘numbers’ guy, so getting employee buy in didn’t come naturally for me.  I’m going to share with you what has worked for me.

Let’s start with what employees ‘need’ when there is a new business owner.

When employees hear that their is a new owner their mind goes into a high tension state.  There is change, and generally most people fear change when everything has been good.  Will they still have their job?  Will their be pay cuts?  Will their job function change?  Will the new owner be able to successfully operate the business?

These things will run through their mind and create a disconcertedness among the team along with gossip.  Employees need to know the answers to these questions.

Employees also need to see that you are capable of guiding the business to positive change.  This is generally tricky as some business are stable and don’t need ‘change’ along with that your employees fear and don’t want the change.  I cover an easy way to do this.

Win the team with the ‘day 1 introduction’.

When the deal is done, and the new owner is at the helm, it’s customary to have an introductory meeting.  The seller of the business should lead and explain why he decided to sell and introduce the new owner with why he will be a great leader for the business.  At this point it is time for the new owner (you) to speak.   Here’s how handle it:

1. Let the employees know what you love about the business and that you’re not going to make aggressive changes.    Change is one thing all employees fear.  Reassure the employees they will have jobs and you’re not just going to come in and start cutting people like Elon Musk did at Twitter.

2. Announce ways in which you plan to grow the business along with the positive impacts it will have on employees.  As an Acquisition Entrepreneur, you’ll probably have some plans for growth — and it’s good for employees to know that.  Don’t share anything too radical, but let employees know what you’ve got up your sleeve and how that benefits them. For example implementing a retirement plan or profit sharing plan increases their total compensation.  Increasing your product line will add room for higher paying roles which will be fulfilled from within.

These all show employees that you’re building a boat that is moving forward.

3. Make changes for the better of the employees.  This is the nail!  It’s time to show the employees that you care about them and that you can implement positive change.  Simply ask the employees ‘what would make your day at work better?’  Here’s the script.

“On that note, since all of you are crucial to this business, I’d like to ask ‘what would make your day at work better?”  Just like that

You might be met with silence so bring some conversation starters.  For example, I’ve acquired home service businesses with trucks so I will generally ask, “whos truck is having problems with the air conditioning?”  and then a few people speak up and the ball is rolling!

I’ll write them all out on a whiteboard and as we wind down, let the employees know they’ll be getting addressed in the next week or two.

Yes you do have to spend money to make this happen, but the buy-in and respect from the team when they see you take action is priceless!

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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