Here’s a question for you: how much should you tell your staff about what’s going on in your business?
Say you decided to sell your business. When is the right time to tell the staff? After it’s sold? Once you have a serious buyer? Or, how about, when you start thinking about selling?
Now, you might think that is too early. But I disagree. You see, there’s a bit of a trend to ‘infantilise’ the workforce. You know, keeping track of people’s hours, instead of their output, lots of signs up in the kitchen and the bathroom, carefully ‘crafting’ all messages that go to staff.
The thing is, the average human being can smell trouble. We are finely tuned to pick up on the vibe, and even if we can’t put a finger on the exact thing that’s making us nervous, it’s still making us nervous. And that, you see, is the issue with not telling your team until way down the track. They will have either figured it out, or they will be trying to and, either way, they sure as hell won’t be putting all their time and energy into working for you, because they’ll be too worried about what is around the corner.
So that’s the downside of not telling your team. I think though, that there is also substantial upside of bringing your team into the picture early. And by early, I mean when you are first thinking about what’s next for the business. Here’s why.
Firstly, in most businesses, your most important asset is your team! So you want them inside the tent on such an important decision. They probably know you better than you know yourself, and they will certainly know their job way better than you ever will, even if it was you doing that ‘exact job’ five years ago. With your team around you and in the know, they can help you get the business ready for sale, make good decisions and even just be your nodding bear. You know, the little toy on your desk that nods away while you talk out aloud to work through a problem. It’s a very valuable skill, to be the nodding bear for someone.
And secondly, in order to maximise the value of your business, you will need your team to help you ready the business for sale. I’m talking job descriptions, all the business procedures written down, making sure your CRM is up to date and correct files are where they should be, etc.
Now all this might seem like a big burden to put on the shoulders of your already-overworked and underpaid (joking, I’m joking!) staff but, really, how else are you going to get a quality outcome. And of course, you can always put incentives or bonuses in place so that everyone benefits from a successful transaction.
I’ve just been talking about selling a business. But there’s lots of other information that you could be sharing with your people that you probably aren’t. The financial state of the business, for instance? Why is this such a big secret? If things are going well, then that’s cause for celebration. And if things are going badly, well, then your team can help you figure out how to fix it.
I really like the level of transparency that is becoming more commonplace. Your team are your greatest asset, and probably the biggest cost in your business. Are you capitalising properly on this investment?
Sarah Penn, director, Mayflower Consulting