Quality employees are essential for the long-term success and growth of any business. Many entrepreneurs learn this simple fact far too late. Regardless of what kind of business you own, a handful of key employees can either make or break you. Sadly, businesses have been destroyed by employees that don’t care, or even worse, are actually working to undermine the business that employs them. In short, the more you evaluate your employees, the better off you and your business will be.
Forbes’ article “Identifying Key Employees When Buying a Business”, from Richard Parker does a fine job in encouraging entrepreneurs to think more about how their employees impact their businesses and the importance of factoring in employees when considering the purchase of a business.
As Parker states, “One of the most important components when evaluating a business for sale is investigating its employees.” This statement does not only apply to buyers. Of course, with this fact in mind, sellers should take every step possible to build a great team long before a business is placed on the market.
There are many variables to consider when evaluating employees. It is critical, as Parker points out, to determine exactly how much of the work burden the owner of the business is shouldering. If an owner is trying to “do it all, all the time” then buyers must determine who can help shoulder some of the responsibility, as this is key for growth.
In Parker’s view, one of the first steps in the buyer’s due diligence process is to identify key employees. Parker strongly encourages buyers to determine how the business will fair if these employees were to leave or cross over to a competitor. Assessing if an employee is valuable involves more than simply evaluating an employee’s current benefit. Their future value and potential damage they could cause upon leaving are all factors that must be weighed. Parker recommends having a test period where you can evaluate employees and the business before entering into a formal agreement. While this may sound like a good idea, I strongly disagree. It is for the benefit of both the buyer and seller to share with the employees the business has been sold at the time of closing. Employees need to see the new buyer in action showing they have the same pay, benefits, and job responsibilities.
It is key to never forget that your employees help you build your business. The importance of specific employees to any given business varies widely. But sellers should understand what employees are key and why. Additionally, sellers should be able to articulate how key employees can be replaced and even have a plan for doing so. Since savvy buyers will understand the importance of key employees and evaluate them, it is essential that sellers are prepared to have their employees placed under the microscope along with the rest of their business.Read More
The simple fact is that without employees, you don’t have a business. Given the tremendous importance of your employees, it is important to step back and reflect on the value associated with keeping those employees happy. And how a potential buyer will view your team as they value the acquisition of your business.
We all know there is a direct relationship between happy employees and happy customers. A happy employee takes steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied. This approach, in turn, leads to a higher level of customer retention and helps in attracting new customers. On the flip side, unhappy employees can be quite dangerous to your company’s bottom line. Most buyers are looking to retain your employees and build on their skills and talents.
The hiring process is a key process for the health of your business and should never be overlooked or treated as a secondary process within your business. Cultivating happy employees begins at this point. Hiring can and will either make or break your business.
Offering great pay and benefits is only one important factor in keeping employees happy. A more overlooked important factor is to appreciate the contributions that employees make. If employees feel as though they are being overlooked or not appreciated, their overall happiness level will falter. Many owners unnaturally expect their employees to have the same dedication to their business that they do, and this can lead to problems.
Your employees realize that they don’t own the business. As a result, most are only willing to invest so much of themselves, their talents and their abilities into your business. Taking steps to keep your employees engaged, such as showcasing that their talents are appreciated, will help keep employees invested and happy. Research has also revealed feeling happy will make them more productive. A few years ago, Fortune Magazine wrote an article that cited a UK study connecting employee happiness and productivity. It’s definitely worth a look.
Being a positive owner is a gigantic step in the right direction where cultivating happy employees is concerned. Being a good role model is at the heart of having happy employees. It is vital to reward people with praise and bonuses for jobs well done and fire employees that are consistently negative or failing to perform their respective duties. Special touches, such as giving employees their birthdays off, can go a long way towards cultivating the kind of climate that leads to increased satisfaction. And don’t forget, your team’s satisfaction will increase your bottom line… leading to a higher value when exiting your business.
When it comes time to sell a business, you can be sure that prospective buyers will be interested in your level of profits. In this way, the investment you make in the happiness of your employees can be returned many fold.Read More
One of the core principles of creating a more valuable business is ensuring it can run without you by getting managers to think like owners.
The theory goes that empowered employees are the best positioned to solve your company’s thorniest issues, as they are the ones closest to the problems. In theory, people feel more like they are part of a bigger cause and this has the potential to contribute positively to a company’s culture. Of course, there is a risk sharing exit plans with employees when selling your business.
American Data Company
Being too open with employees can also backfire. To illustrate, let’s look at the example of American Data Company, founded by Josh Holtzman in 2003. Holtzman had built his consulting business up to more than $3 million in revenue by 2011 when he came up with the goal of building it to be a $15- million business. Holtzman knew that a $15-million business would have the scale to provide his employees with more opportunities and a better exit multiple if he ever wanted to sell.
Fifteen Cubed—The Goal of Getting to $15 Million
To galvanize his team around the idea of getting to $15 million, Holtzman came up with a catchy concept he dubbed “Fifteen Cubed”. The idea was that his team would help him build American Data to $15 million in annual revenue by the year 2015 and, if successful, he would share 15% of the proceeds of the sale with his staff as part of a phantom stock option program.
Holtzman announced the goal and bought Fifteen Cubed bracelets for each of his employees to wear as a reminder of their collective goal and how they stood to gain personally if they were able to achieve their common goal.
Initially, the program was received positively, but a year after the announcement, American Data had failed to grow. Another year went by and still, American Data was stuck at $3 million to $4 million in revenue.
Suddenly, the prospect of hitting $15 million looked like a long shot. Ultimately, the only way Holtzman could hit the goal was to merge his company with a much larger one, which is what he did when he swapped his equity in American Data for a minority stake in Magnet 360, a consulting company about five times bigger.
The merged companies exceeded $15 million in combined sales and Holtzman’s employees were able to participate in Magnet 360’s phantom stock option program, even though their portion of the proceeds was diluted when American Data merged with Magnet 360. It was a good outcome for all involved, but not quite the home run Holtzman had imagined when he first announced the $15 million revenue goal.
Keeping Employees in the Know
Being open with employees can be a great energy boost when things are going well. Employees see the charts and graphs all moving up and to the right and that can contribute to a positive vibe in the office. But just like using leverage when buying a house can boost results in a good market and magnify mistakes when things turn down, being open has the potential to backfire dramatically if you don’t reach your projected numbers.
As an entrepreneur, you can handle a high degree of ambiguity and you probably have an abnormally high degree of optimism. Just remember the people who work for you have chosen not to be entrepreneurs and for some of them, there may be such a thing as too much information.