1. Stop Resisting Change
The world is moving faster than ever, and in the business world, if you stop you die. If you have been resisting changes around the office or your business, now is the time to let go of your reservations. If anything in your business is running on anything other than the most recent versions of Mac, Windows, or Linux, get rid of it or upgrade it. Paint that wall. Allow employees to work from home. Drop international calling if you never use it. Anything that has been “in the works”, bring it to head. Modernize.
2. Consider Rightsizing
Can your work be done better and cheaper by freelancers than your current employees? Are their duplicates of positions? Could you do without an executive assistant? If the answer to any of these is yes, then it may be time to consider rightsizing your company. Maximizing profits and minimizing expenses should be your top priority before you try selling your company. You want your core staff to be dedicated, and you want your work to be done quickly and effectively.
3. Start Saying Goodbye
This is your company. You raised it, you loved it, you taught it, you learned with it, it was yours. But if your reading this article, chances are, that sometime soon it’s not going to be yours anymore. This means getting used to the fact that things are going to change. Maybe this means that you need to teach yourself to act like a visitor in what was your home away from home. Maybe this means that you need to work on your language so that you stop calling it “your” business now, so that in a year when it’s not yours, it’s already out of your head.
Regardless of what it means for you, you need to start the likely painful process of separating yourself from the company, because changes will happen, and some of them you’re not going to like. They are going to be stupid, and shortsighted, and you’re going to have to fight the urge to call the new management and berate them for changing to Great Value coffee cups instead of the industrially compostable ones. Starting to say goodbye now will reduce the urge in the future.
4. Preemptively Change
Changes are coming to your startup. No matter what, new management will almost certainly want to shake a few things up. What you can do now is preemptively change things, which will make your startup more attractive for business, and can help your business run better in the meantime. Is their a Zen garden that you installed three years ago that no one uses? Scrap it now. Are you paying for super expensive business calling through one of the big cell phone companies? Start looking into MNVO’s. Try to anticipate changes and make those that will save money without adversely affecting your employees. Because trust me, most people will never know the difference between T-Mobile and Ultra Mobile. Your wallet and your budget on the other hand, definitely will.
5. Correct Any Surprises NOW
Do you know what investors and prospective buyers hate more than anything else? Surprises. Not the “oh we forgot that the office building is built on an untapped oil reserve and we own the mineral rights” surprises, but the “oops, our CFO has been robbing the company blind for months” sort of surprises. You want there to be no surprises, nothing that come back and bite you during the sales process. You want to know anything and everything that the buyers may discover or bring at you.
If you can afford it, hire an outside CPA to conduct a full internal audit of your finances. If you have an IT department, have them do an audit. Check emails, check files, check SSD’s and check cloud storage. Collect, centralize, and organize 100% of your records going back to the beginning of time. Ensure every cent is accounted for, every debt is recorded, every reimbursement above the board, every mistake catalogued, every firing justified. Now is also the time to have a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with management and C-level executives. Let them know that a full internal audit is going to be done (whether it’s true or not) and offer them a chance to tell you anything that you should now before the audit finds it. Reiterate to your employees your open-door policy for misconduct, and encourage reporting.
If you can’t actually conduct an audit, considering offering your management and C-level executives Queen for a day, meaning they have a limited period to tell you something and not be fired for it. If you truly intend to sell, you can pass the info along, and they can fire the person. If it is serious enough, you can still seek legal action, and regardless, you can stop what was happening, or take steps to correct it, which is sometimes the better than losing an employee and is almost certainly better than it coming out right before a contract is signed and getting blindsided.
Regardless, be fully aware of every skeleton in your companies closet. Nothing is private, and prospective buyers WILL investigate.
No matter what you do to prepare, the change and sale of your startup are going to be a process. What you can do, however, is start preparing, so that you and your company are ready for the long journey. Take the changes and growth in stride, and enjoy every day working somewhere you helped build.