Small-business environments are often close-knit, and announcing a major transition, like a change in ownership, can come as a shock to employees. Prepare for this announcement by evaluating how employees will be affected by the move and come up with answers to predictable questions and concerns.

Work Out the Details

Don't spring a change in ownership on your employees without having pertinent details to give them. Partial or incomplete information can be worse than no information and can cause workplace stress, reduced productivity and even resignations. Don't let word of the transition make it into the rumor mill before you have an opportunity to address staffers on your own. If there's something you don't have firm details about, let employees know you'll provide information as soon as it becomes available.

Hold Group and Individual Meetings

Plan to make a group announcements when everyone is present. You can provide an overview of the general terms of the transition, answer questions and then move on to small group and individual meetings to discuss how the transition will affect different departments. Be upbeat and positive, if possible, and explain why the transition is being made. If the ownership change brings the potential of new opportunities for employees, emphasize this in your meeting to get staffers enthusiastic about the future.

Offer Reassurances

One of the biggest concerns of your employees is whether their jobs are safe. Provide honest information, offering reassurance where appropriate and assuring employees that if reductions are made, they’ll be given plenty of notice. If the transition in ownership will result in mass layoffs or major changes to the way the company operates, be prepared for significant concern and disappointment from your employees. Answer questions as thoroughly and transparently as you can, provide timeline information for changes and try to be supportive and encouraging, making an effort to help with job relocation and placement, if possible.

Put It in Writing

Hearing news of a change in ownership is likely to come as a surprise, and employees may not catch all the details when you make your announcement. Follow up with a written overview of the transition, including information about the new owner. Employees can refer to this as they digest the information. Have a follow-up meeting shortly after your initial announcement to answer questions you weren't able to answer at first.

Introduce New Owners

If possible, have the new owner attend a group meeting so you can introduce employees and initiate a smooth transition. The new owner should be prepared to discuss her operating goals and strategy and provide employees with a glimpse of the new company's corporate philosophy. Encourage the new owner to schedule one-on-one meetings with key employees in your company. Getting well-respected managers on board and comfortable with the change will help ease the transition.