When you buy an existing business it is an all-inclusive package. You get the customer flow that already supports the business, past data and history to help you plan and, of course, the “who would pick that?” color on the walls. For most owners who purchase a small business, giving it a facelift, getting to know the customers and bringing in new business are all part of the progress plan.
But the thing that makes a new owner the most nervous is taking on the existing employees. Someone else hired, trained and managed them to this point, so lots of questions come to mind:
“What if they don’t respect me?”
“What if they don’t like how I do things?”
“What if they quit without giving me a chance?”
First things first. Negative “what if’s” like these will only wear you out. Save your strength for making the positive changes that you know will make the business more successful.
As for the employees, let’s look at it from a different perspective. Professional teams have to make adjustments when a new coach comes into the role. So how do those coaches take on the leadership role for these existing teams?
First, they understand that just putting people together in a room, on a court or on field together does not make them a team. A group of people working together for the same outcome is what makes a team.
How does the coach make that happen?
5 Tips to Help You and Your Inherited Employees Become a Winning Team
1. Earn and give respect
In one way, you have already earned some respect – you signed the bottom line and took over the responsibility for the business. But to get to that next level you need to model respective behavior. You’re the coach… the leader…the one that the entire team has “eyes on” and looks to for guidance. How you treat team members will be reflected in how they treat you. While you certainly don’t have to agree with “that’s how we’ve always done it,” you do need to respect that someone taught or allowed them to do it that way before you came along. Changes come easier when you respect the team enough to explain why you want things done a certain way and how it can improve not only the overall business, but in many
cases, their individual jobs.
2. Have a winning strategy to meet goals and communicate
Every winning team walks on the court with a game plan. If you walk in to work with the attitude of “let’s just get through the day today,” then your team will have that attitude as well. You have to have a strategy that your team can get behind so they know where you are taking the business and how you want to get there. Whether your goal is to increase sales in a particular product line or decrease the cost of producing products by being more efficient, you must communicate your strategy to meet those goals to the team so they can help you achieve it. Having a sense of achievement in a job can make the difference in whether a valued team member stays or goes.
3. Expect results
Model behavior, teach, train, step back and expect good results. Allow your employees to show you what they can do. Coaches aren’t allowed to step onto the field in the middle of a football game, take the ball away from a quarterback and say “Just let me do it… I know more than you.” And you shouldn’t either. But business owners tend to “step in” on their employees and take over a job or a customer out of fear that the job won’t be done exactly as the owner would do it. Taking away the responsibility of the job also takes away the achievement the employee would have gained from doing it themselves. You can’t be all places at once. Having well trained, confident employees means that you don’t have to be.
4. Clean up the roster
Not everyone belongs on the team. It’s never easy to let someone go, but sometimes it is one of the best things you can do to improve your team’s morale. Star athletes are often traded or let go from teams because of their attitude towards other members or because they simply don’t want to abide by the requirements set by the coach. It’s the same in business. If one employee is allowed to slide by because they’ve been there for years (sometimes longer than the owner) then it sends a clear signal to the others that slacking off or talking down the new owner is alright. It’s not. That employee distracts the rest of the team from their goals and drags everyone down, including you. Let ‘em go. It’s the right thing for the team.
5. Celebrate achievements
Imagine how boring professional sporting events would be if every player went to work on game day but there was no score and no winner. What if touchdowns didn’t matter, 3 pointers were just another hoop shot and hitting a home run just meant the batter gets to feel a little silly running in a circle for no reason? But amazingly, that’s how some owners treat their business team. If the company meets a planned goal, the owner needs to share the news with the team that got it there. Great employees, like star players, want that recognition of a job well done. Celebrations don’t have to be big, but they have to be meaningful. It’s the coach’s job to say, “You did it! I’m proud to have you all on this team.”
Vincent Lombardi is considered to be one of the greatest coaches in NFL history (and one of the most quoted coaches of all times). He said:
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”
Remember, as the owner, your role is to operate a successful business. But, you can’t do that alone. Having experienced employees on hand when you buy a business should be something to appreciate, not to fear.
Get more ideas about how to manage an existing crew of employees in these posts:
- What's the Secret to Finding (& Keeping) Great Bakery Employees?
- 8 Keys to Managing Employees as a Small Business Owner
- 10 Characteristics of Successful Great Harvest Bakery Owners
Image credits: Sports images courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net