Marketing agency owner Genevieve Rockett experienced a similar positive reaction after announcing the sale of Rockett Interactive to sector heavyweight Dentsu Aegis.
"We didn't know exactly how the team would react," she told us. "It took a while for the news to sink in, but with time our team embraced the opportunities and are enjoying the advantages that come with being part of a much larger entity."
Announcing the sale of your company also acts to clarify the situation, especially if some employees know there's something going on. As Darren Cairns found out upon selling industrial software firm Intrinsys to a Swedish acquirer.
"When I made the announcement, the new owners flew over and we had an Announcement Day," he says, "People knew something was coming up and the perception was that we were going to announce that we had acquired a business, [as we had] three years earlier. Some people thought this was the same thing – they saw certain signs that they recognised.
"So, I don't think anyone got the news that they were expecting, and there was a bit of an intake of breath when the announcement was made."
While it's the acquirers job to lead on communications, a vendor with an earnout needs to keep the team motivated throughout integration and the management handover. The goal then is not just to tell your team the big news but to sell it to them. Here's how.
Call a face-to-face meeting
With your acquirer, gather all your staff together if possible to break the news. You don't want some staff finding out second-hand from colleagues, and you need to look them in the eye to explain your reasoning.
Sell the benefits
Focus on the three main benefits for employees – job security, career development, and re-energising the business. Coordinate with your acquirer to make sure the opportunities are clear. Yes, things may be a little uncertain in the short term, so focus on the opportunities for promotion and the exciting future under new ownership.
You will be expected to have answers for difficult questions, so prepare for them with your acquirer (see checklist below). Explain any potential changes in roles, new contracts or benefits, and outline the workplace culture and employee benefits of the new parent company.
Share the wealth
Giving staff a small share of the proceeds to thank them is a sure-fire way to help with staff buy-in. This isn't for everyone though, and if you aren't able to offer everyone a bonus, consider a party or celebration to acknowledge their contribution to your success.
Once you have broken the news, keep a close eye for any potential flashpoints. Watch for greater workload stress, new power struggles, and a ‘them and us' culture clash. If you the pace of change is too fast, stand up for your people and raise these issues with your acquirer.