Throughout the acquisition process you have probably started to hone in on certain areas that you think are important for you. Before you even acquire the business, you will know what areas you need to focus on. The process to take after buying a business depends on the business itself and the new owner’s transition plan. If the previous owner is going to stick around and transition the business out, then as the new owner you don’t have to do too many things immediately.
Start making a plan on which area of the business you want to focus on first. Generally, and based on past transactions I find that the key areas needing attention are pending accounting issues, improving sales management issues, and dealing with any technology issues you are aware of. The business and the kind of transition plan you are entering into will affect your focus and what you can do to effect change. Make a list of three core areas you want to focus on and from that create a 90-day plan in each of the three areas.
How to Implement a 90 Day Department Plan
Pick three core areas, then within each of those three core areas pick the tasks you want to accomplish in one week, 30 days, 60 days, and then 90 days. The neat thing about the one-week task list is that you can update it each week. You bring forward any plans that you have for the future into the activities you accomplished that week and you start to do those things every single week. You can break it apart within the three core areas by week or by month for every single department you just walked through. You end up with a department by department short-term and medium-term task list to meet the three core things you wanted to achieve in 90 days. This is the fundamental tenet of executing a plan and it’s really important to do it. It doesn’t have to be more elaborate than a Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheet.
The Soft Side of Implementing a New Business Plan
Although you might be ready to jump into challenges and create big waves of change, those working for your company may need to be eased into it. Having a clear idea of your short and long term key goals for the business are important. However, when presenting new ideas to employees do it softly to avoid adverse reactions.
Improve a “little bit”
The soft side of implementing a new business plan is to make sure you communicate to the employees that you actually want to improve, not a lot, but just a little bit. Using the quote, “Just get a little bit better” seems to work best. Look at your thumb and your index finger for a visual and say, “We just want to grow a little bit, or just improve a little bit.” If you can improve somebody’s job, or their output, or the outcome by one percent in every area of your business each month (even just one percent better) then that’s a significant gain at the end of the year. These employees who you are asking to improve and change have been working in this job for quite some time and likely all they have learned is the job they are currently doing now. So don’t ask them to change a great deal because they may not want to or may not be able to. Remember, they may not have the training that you are challenging them to now do. Approaching the change softly using “a little bit better” in every department, every week, and the end result is going to be much better.
Have Patience and Empathy
The other soft item that is important to understand as the new business owner is to have patience. Often, new owners go into an acquisition thinking they are going change the world immediately or that they will grow sales faster than anybody else has ever grown them, improve margins better than anybody has ever improved margins. The reality is that you can grow a little bit. Sure, some businesses can grow a lot faster and improve a lot better than others, but the reality is that it takes a long time to see those big gains. Focus on getting a little bit better, have some patience, and some empathy for those doing the job. The employees already take pride in their work and you just want to improve on that a little bit. Have empathy for the change they are going through.
Jarrett Davidson is an experienced entrepreneur and corporate finance professional with significant strategic and operational roles within companies he owns and advises on.