Ownership to Leadership – Epilogue, Part II

As we continue speaking about owners having their companies acquired, we’re going to talk a bit more about the emotions of the transition and get a little squishier before the end. Trust me, being real and even vulnerable about your emotions in this situation will better prepare you for what lies ahead.

There are more people now. Your stakeholder group has grown and not only do you have a boss, but you likely have colleagues at the same level of reporting structure as you. They may need information or ideas or feedback that you aren’t used to giving. You likely won’t be able to just act on your ideas anymore without involving more people.

If you were a boss who was used to calling the shots and having a staff who followed your guidance without question, be ready for a colleague to raise their hand and now want to discuss your suggestions. Just remember that a variety of opinions, approaches, and diversity of thought is a huge benefit to a larger team.

Be sure to also keep in mind how your original team is moving forward. After the acquisition a lot of your time may be spent helping your previous team to acclimate. Some folks will be unhappy and some will be confused. They have relied on you in the past and will continue to do so. This isn’t a bad thing as long as you also support new leaders that may have been identified and help them start to build trust with the team.

Do you have a handle on who you are now? In selling your company, you’re likely selling something that is a part of you. This is hard and can cause a lot of mixed emotions and internal struggles. You built something that you invested in personally, emotionally, and financially … and now you’re selling it to someone else. Are you ready to disconnect, hand off your creation, and then let someone else tinker with it?

To this point, your identity has probably been tied up in your company to a large extent. What have you done mentally to help you with the transition? Think about some of the most stressful times in your life and what you did to help you through those. Is it time to open that toolbox back up? If you know you need others to get you through the transition, is it time to speak with them about what you are going through? If so, just be sure to keep your group to those who can be trusted with this sensitive information. If you are someone who reflects internally, then schedule some time for quiet reflection to allow you to identify what you are truly feeling and how to productively move forward.

In Conclusion. Starting, running, and then selling a successful company is a huge achievement. Therefore, the amount of internal dedication you give to thinking about your involvement in the next step should be just as big. Take the time early on in the acquisition and diligence process to really think about what you want so you have a clear understanding of your own future. There will be a time in the process when it may be too late to have a productive conversation, causing you to end up feeling more lost than celebratory once the deal is done. Make sure you are proactive so this doesn’t happen.

When the transition is complete, you may no longer be an owner, but you can still be a leader. Your people will need you to be. Prepare now so you’ll be in a good space to be able to do so.

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