When you buy a business, a smooth transition should be one of your top priorities. After all, you will have plenty of work to do already. It is also important for retaining customers and staff. Below are ten tips for making a smooth transition.
- Have the previous owner stay on after the sale. The owner can serve as an advisor or consultant for a predetermined period of time. This can add some much-needed stability during the transitional period.
- Start with minor changes. Customers may react unfavorably to sweeping changes. Therefore, at the beginning, less is more. Make minor changes and pay attention to your customers' initial reactions.
- Meet your employees. If you are buying a small business, take the time to sit down with the people who work for the company and are now under your guidance.
- Boost employee morale. Pay close attention to the morale of the current employees. It's inevitable that some employees will be worried about the security of their jobs. Do whatever you can to maintain and even boost employee morale.
- Ask lots of questions and take notes. Let the previous owner and the staff teach you how to run the business. You can implement new procedures, but before doing so, make sure you know how things are currently done. Only then can you make informed decisions on changing business procedures.
- Maintain current record keeping-procedures. It’s important to keep the paper trail in place. Do your best to ensure that employee records, purchasing policies, invoices, payroll, taxes, and all other paperwork remain on schedule through the transition.
- Review customer service policies. Customers are used to having issues handled in a certain manner. Review the policies and maintain them for the first few months. After the transition is complete, amend them as necessary.
- Meet the vendors. If the business is large and there are many vendors, you may not be able to meet each and every one. However, interview the seller about each vendor and try to make contact with all of them.
- Familiarize yourself with your new technology. While meeting the people behind the business and learning the procedures is important, you must also learn as much as you can about the technology that supports the business. You need to familiarize yourself with software programs and learn about their shortcomings. Learn what has gone wrong and how the technical staff (or individual) has handled such problems.
- Do something nice for your customers. You don’t have to do this right away, but once you are comfortable running the business, offer some type of special offer, have a promotional giveaway, or do something special for your customers. This will help create goodwill with your customer base.
The most important factor in making the transition is that the business continues to operate without significant interruption. You want your regular customers to feel comfortable patronizing the business. Since most people are resistant to change, try not to surprise people with sweeping changes unless the business is struggling and desperately needs new customers.
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