Your business has an array of stakeholders, from employees and customers to investors and suppliers. If you are selling your business, each of these parties has the right to know about the status of the sale, though they are not all entitled to the same type of information or the same degree of detail. The closer your relationship with a stakeholder, the sooner he should know and the more care you should devote to addressing the concerns that will inevitably arise.
Announcing to Employees
It will be difficult to sell a closely held business with only a handful of trained, experienced employees unless your staff knows about the potential change and is willing to work with a new owner. Announce a business sale to essential employees, such as experienced and talented senior managers, during a private meeting early in the process. Take the time to answer their questions, address their concerns and gauge their willingness to continue with the company even after you sell it. Announce the sale to the rest of the workforce once the ownership change is a certainty. Be transparent with details about how it might impact their jobs and address their questions with sensitivity and clarity.
Announcing to Potential Buyers
Potential buyers won't be able to research or inquire about your business unless they know it's for sale, yet it's risky to publicly announce that your company is on the market before you've informed stakeholders such as employees and customers. A qualified business broker will have the contacts and discretion to reach out to targeted potential buyers and ensure confidentiality by presenting them with a nondisclosure agreement before discussing details. If you've already told employees and customers that you're offering your business for sale, announce the listing through a medium that's appropriate for your industry, such as a mobile food listing service for a food truck business.
Announcing to Key Customers
A business built on key relationships with a limited number of customers should reach out to clients directly to announce a business sale. These key customers should hear about the business sale before the news reaches the general public. Send a personalized letter or email, or even make personalized phone calls. If the ongoing success of your company under new ownership depends on customers' willingness to transfer their business to the new owners, reach out to these customers even before the sale to establish trust and assure prospective buyers that the clientele will remain loyal.
Making a General Announcement
Once close stakeholders know about your business sale, you may choose to announce it to the general public through a press release or blog post. Choose a media outlet appropriate for your business, such as a neighborhood newspaper for a neighborhood hardware store or a food and drink column for an established restaurant. Craft the press release to provide information for your customer base about the status of the company and the ongoing availability of your products and services, and also provide information about your new endeavors that may be of interest to the business community.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.