As we discussed in a previous blog post, “Strategies to Retain Clients After an Acquisition,” client retention is critical to not only ensuring the survival of the business but also its ability to repay loans used to acquire the business. There are many factors we explored in the article. One, in particular, is of extreme importance and something we look for when evaluating business acquisitions, and that factor is how the new owners will approach retaining and utilizing existing staff to transition clients during an acquisition.
Chiefly, we look at client facing staff who have established relationships with key accounts and customers. Because they are already known and trusted by the client, they are the best stewards of the transition. We have worked with consultants who specialize in mergers and acquisitions and they have provided us with a few guidelines on how to leverage these staff members to ensure clients stay with the firm once the deal is closed.
Engage them early
As soon as an initial agreement is in place, the new owners should start building rapport and buy-in from client-facing staff. Engaging them early on gives them time to learn about the new owners and their business plus an opportunity to work through their own concerns and resistance before any major changes occur. Looping them in early also makes them feel valued and included in the process, and therefore they are more willing to work with the new owners in making a smooth transition happen.
Acknowledge and Address Their Concerns
The purpose of using existing staff is to have enthusiastic champions serving as brand ambassadors and guides for clients and other staff members during the transition. However, people are inherently resistant to change. A resistant employee doesn’t make a good ambassador, and in some cases can even serve to undermine the process. When engaging with existing staff, provide a forum for them to voice their concerns, validate all of their concerns, and provide clear and timely information and feedback.
Train them on the Message
To be effective stewards, client facing staff need to know how to communicate changes to clients and manage their expectations. Identify what will change and what will stay the same and create scripts for those items. If any new software, branding, or processes will be introduced, train the staff on these items ahead of any other staff members. This way they are knowledgeable and confident in all of the changes before implementation begins and can comfortably guide clients through the transition. They can also serve as internal champions for onboarding and transitioning other staff members.
Give Them Resources
It is critical to support client-facing staff during the transition. If they have the tools and resources they need to be effective, they can focus on making the client experience as positive and productive as possible. In addition to training, supplies, equipment, and time, it is also important that you give them a pathway to voice client concerns, identify and address issues, and to identify and develop opportunities. Staff who feel supported and empowered and have what they need to do their jobs well will advocate for the new owners and the new brand, which puts the customers at ease and increases client retention.
Utilizing existing staff to transition clients during an acquisition is critical to the stability and profitability of the business. By engaging staff, creating an open forum to communicate and address concerns, training them on key messaging, and providing organizational supports, you can ensure a smooth and positive transition for clients and employees.
For more information about what lenders look for when evaluating loans for acquisitions, please contact us.