Firing Employees After You Acquire a Business
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Most smart people who have recently purchased a business do not terminate employees for at least six months unless there is a very good reason to do so, including fighting or theft. The reason for this is that when you first take over a business, you need a trained and experienced staff more than they need you. You might have 20 years of experience in a particular industry, but you do not know everything about the business you acquired, regardless of how thoroughly you performed your due diligence. Moreover, many times first impressions are false; those who you initially perceive to be superstars may be duds, and the duds may be superstars.
So, how should you deal with employees when you first take over? First, meet in private on an individual basis with each person who will be reporting to you directly. Listen more than you talk, and make the person feel comfortable speaking with you. You might want to do this over a drink after hours. Ask them how they can better perform their jobs and what you can do to help them. Tell them that they have a clean slate with you and that you are not going to look at prior reviews or listen to gossip.
Second, ask them to put their job description in writing. This will help you understand their perceptions of what they do and what is expected of them. Over the next several months, watch, listen and make notes.
After six months, you can make informed decisions as to whom to keep and whom to let go.
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