In an initial conversation it is important to establish trust, since the topic of company change can create anxiety among employees. Even when noble intentions of shared ownership are expressed, employees may be preoccupied by fear of job loss, or instability.
Employees will be looking to hear that:
- The selling owner can speak honesty about their own desires and concerns
- Unfamiliar aspects of the employee ownership have outside expert support
- There will be a forum for questions and discussion
The seller should speak about their goals and desires from their position as owner:
- What was the original vision for the business, and how has this been fulfilled?
- What personal or professional changes now require a new path forward?
- What paths are being explored?
The seller should be honest about what is important to them in the transition:
- What timeline does the seller see as ideal for the transition?
- What does the seller see as the ideal outcome for personnel?
- What does the seller see as the ideal financial outcome?
The employees will want to hear more about how a sale would actually work, especially about the money:
- What is the estimated business sale cost, and where does that number come from?
- What would that purchase mean at individual level, and what financing would make it accessible?
- What would profit sharing look like if the company were employee-owned?
The employees will want to know about management and personnel:
- Will the owner exit, or stay, or something in between?
- Who will take on the duties the owner currently fulfills? How will they be trained, and by who?
- Would all employees be expected to become employee-owners, or a subset?
The employees should be asked to air their thoughts and questions
- Would employee ownership meet their vision for working at the business?
- What would they need to know to constructively evaluate the idea?
- What situations or findings would make the path not worth pursuing, from their perspective?
A transition team should be recruited to work with the owner:
- Who will work with the owner and outside experts to develop the idea into a proposal for employees?