No matter who you are or what your specialty is, buying a business isn't easy. Dreaming is simple, but if you're seriously considering transforming yourself from an employee to owner and CEO, a forecast of hurdles may help you prepare for life after signing on the dotted line.
I was 31 years old when I purchased my company in 2006. I had been an employee for eight years. When the former owner began pursuing other passions and dreams -- I had the opportunity to make the business my own. Although I was a manager of the firm at the time, I was not a shareholder or partner, which made the situation somewhat unique. Suddenly I stopped being a colleague to the employees and became their owner and boss.
The past 8 years have been a whirlwind, but here are some things I learned along the way. If you're considering purchasing a company you work for, these tips may help you anticipate challenges you could experience.
If you're switching from employee to owner, prepare for a drastic role change.
Once my name appeared on the door, things changed. It was now my job to not only define and oversee the direction of my company; I also had to oversee business development, customer relations, human resources, the finances, as well as the quality of our creative product we produced on behalf of our clients. If you're preparing for this major shift in gears, have a plan for who is going to cover your former position so you don't leave a vacuum behind or try to take on too many jobs. Anticipate where the gaps will be, and have a clear plan in place. You should also prepare to lose some of the job functions that drew you to the business to start with. As CEO and owner, your role is to work on the business -- not in the business. And, some days that may seem a little less exciting than your previous role.
"Own it" from the beginning.
Any ownership change creates a major shift, and people can get nervous about what that means for their job function and future with the business. Take time to voice changes and explain what's happening as well as what's going to happen. Present your vision to employees and be transparent. The shift in transforming from a peer to a boss may be hard for both you and the employees, but embracing your role with confidence and transparency will make all the difference.
Your role change may not be the only one.
Some people are going to be behind you all the way, but others may not share your vision. Some people may choose to hop off the bus at various stops, and that's okay. Only align yourself with team players who are in it to win and share your vision. Don't wrestle with stragglers or waste time trying to convince them to see things your way. If energies don't mesh, don't take it personally. Just let it go and move on.
Prepare to juggle like you never have before.
No matter how balanced you are, stepping into the ownership position will turn you into a master juggler. Despite how hard of a worker you are, you will have to work much harder when you assume the risk of business ownership. Ultimately, it's you who is on the line for every business decision, financial agreement and ensuring you can pay your employees and vendors as well as meet the demands of your clients. Although ownership may buy you some flexibility -- expect to work much harder and to never be in a position to "shut work off."
Embrace your own style and don't worry about how things used to be.
My values overlapped with the previous owner's, but I had a different personality, style and goals. When you take ownership, you have to define a new status quo. No matter how involved you were in the business before, things are going to be different. There is generally a transition period as you and the rest of the company adjusts. Having a support system in place before the switch will help you get things off your chest, gain perspective, and make stronger choices. A business coach or mentorship organization can be invaluable.
Whether you're considering acquiring a public relations firm, law firm, or any other type of business you're part of, it's important to prepare for big changes. Going from employee to CEO virtually overnight and swapping roles from active team player to active team owner is a challenge, but if you have a unique perspective and fresh idea, the rewards of owning your own business are incredible.