After completing the sale of your business, there is typically a handover process between the seller and the buyer. One of a buyer’s most significant concerns when taking over a business is that the company’s performance continues as it was before the sale. When a seller is willing to stay on for a handover process post-closing, the buyer has increased trust in the business, resulting in the business selling more quickly and at a higher valuation. Therefore, it will be beneficial to both parties to plan this part of the process well and in advance of the time that the handover will take place. The length, compensation, etc., of the Handover period will be worked through during the Purchase Agreement negotiations. If there is a failure to recognize and offer an acceptable handover period for the business, it could cause a deal to fall apart while it is in due diligence.
Stages Of A Business Handover
The typical stages of a business handover are the Training Stage, Handover Stage, and Assistance Stage. Immediately following the sale, the seller will usually continue to run 100% of the business. During this time, the new owner will take some time to familiarize themselves with the business. Then, as the Training stage begins, the seller will slowly reduce their involvement while the buyer continues to increase theirs. In the Training stage, the seller must create a checklist of items that he can run through with the new owner. Mark each item as complete once it’s finished, and keep this for your records if you run into any issues down the road. It is a good idea to observe how a day in the life of your business typically goes. Take note of every payroll task you complete, every person you communicate with, any supplier or contractor documentation, provide copies of all budgets, information about cash flow, etc. Continue with this process until you feel that you have been able to document all of the particulars that the new owner will need to know in order to keep the business operating smoothly. As the seller trains the new owner, the seller will slowly start to reduce their involvement while the buyer continues to increase theirs. This sequence will continue until the complete handover is achieved.
During the Handover stage, the new owner runs 75%-100% of the business with the seller still on hand to help answer questions and ensure that processes are running smoothly. If you have had a successful Training stage, the new owner will have increased confidence in successfully running the business. This may matter to the seller as well, particularly if there are any deferred payments or earnouts that have been agreed to in the structure of the sale. It is imperative to train the buyer and put them in a position to be successful, as both parties benefit from doing so. The new owner will now be in charge of making crucial decisions and bringing innovative ideas and future plans for the business to the table. Customer and employee relationships with the new owner should be solidly in place at this point, and the seller should have very limited involvement in the day-to-day activities of the business.
Once the new owner is running 100% of the business, it is common to enter the Assistance stage, where both parties have made an agreement to remain in contact for a set period of time in case there are any questions that come up. While the seller is no longer directly engaged with the daily runnings of the company, it is best for them to make themselves available to answer any questions that the new owner might have. Many times the majority of this communication can be handled through email and phone conversations. An essential item to have established for this stage is the amount of time the new owner can expect to receive help from the seller, paying particular care to have the expectations and limitations outlined.
A properly planned Handover period can help the seller and the new owner is mentally prepared for the seller’s exit and help prepare the business, customers, and employees for the handover. Once the handover is complete and the seller exits fully, they can know that the business is in good hands. It is time for them to recover from and reflect on the ownership handover period and identify their next goal to get excited about.
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