If you’ve just bought a business then the next few months is a critical period for you and your newly acquired enterprise. First impressions count, so it’s your chance to win the respect of your new charges, suppliers and customers.
Bodge the transition and you could lose key staff or contracts, so here are some tasks which should top your agenda as you look to write the next successful chapter in the business’s story.
Understand the business
Now is not the time to initiate drastic reforms and improvements—regardless of how pressing they might seem. First, you must fully understand the business, its strengths and weaknesses.
Staff and customers will likely be alarmed if you rush headlong into dramatic changes without respecting the very attributes that made the business a success in the first place.
This is a time for learning about your acquisition (from the inside) so you can understand what works, what needs improvement.
Your understanding will only be comprehensive if you make it a 360-degree review by talking to staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Ignore their views and not only will you have an incomplete picture of the business you’re inheriting, but you’ll be alienating the people who make it tick and those who ultimately pay their wages.
Speak to staff
You should meet with your staff immediately and set out your vision for the business. Some staff will feel apprehensive about your intentions and their future in the company, so reassure them.
Tell them that you value their contributions, that you intend to build on, not abandon, the business’s strengths, and that you see a bright future ahead for them and the business.
You shouldn’t promise anything you can’t deliver, however. And it’s wise to avoid divulging too much detail about your plans at this stage—because you shouldn’t yet have detailed plans.
By all means acknowledge that you expect teething problems during the transition period. But tell them that your door is always open should anyone have any questions or worries.
It’s also worth offering staff the chance to ask any questions at the end of the introductory meeting. Don’t be alarmed if you receive none; the gesture will be appreciated and it may simply reflect the fact that you’ve already expressed your vision with clarity and assuaged their misgivings.
Speak to customers and suppliers
Customers, suppliers and other partners will have their own concerns about a change of ownership. You should act quickly to reassure them that the continuity they need will be forthcoming.
As with staff, you should declare yourself open to questions and suggestions as to how standards can be maintained or improved.
Develop your strategy
Having gained a good grasp of business operations and reassured staff, customers and suppliers, you will now be much better placed to begin developing a strategy to take the business forward.
Cosmetic changes and minor, hopefully uncontroversial, tweaks aside, there are three strands to your strategy worth considering:
1. Dispose of unwanted assets
As a new owner you may be able to raise some cash and create some space pretty quickly by ditching any unproductive inventory, equipment or other assets.
2. Develop your marketing plan
Your predecessor may have already formulated an effective marketing plan that you can retain, refine and build on. If you’re starting from scratch then, at the very least, you need to learn what your customers need and find a way to deliver it as cost-effectively as possible.
And you may as well be blindfolded unless you constantly monitor the effectiveness of your marketing measures and tweak your plan accordingly.
3. Draft your business plan
Though your new business plan will need to address precisely how you will improve the company, it need not be a convoluted nor complex document.
Your plan should define: what you want to achieve; who will be involved and in what ways; target dates for hitting certain milestones; and what metrics you will use to assess progress towards those goals.
By now you’ve taken the time to understand the business, engage and reassure staff and customers, establish your vision and formulated a plan for realizing it.
The next challenge, naturally, is implementing that plan to take your business to the next level – but without undermining whatever made the business a success (if indeed it is) in the first place.
By Melanie Luff, Online Journalist for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Melanie writes for all titles in the Dynamis Stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.