Selling your Business? R.E.W.A.R.D. your employees…

I have been involved in selling businesses in Europe Middle East and Africa for more than 20 years; I’m usually called in to enhance the value of the business to prepare it for sale.

Enhancing the value of your business can only be done by putting in place a team of people that would be able to work independently form you, manage risks and grow the business. You will only succeed if you recognise, early enough, that you are not indispensable and admit that your business can succeed without you. To avoid any emotions preventing you to do this, I recommend you engage your Business  in a radical change of culture. To do so you will need to break micromanaging behaviours by following the R.E.W.A.R.D. process:

Remain Committed

Steve Jobs Quote

You should set a framework and define boundaries for actions and behaviours, and therein allow co-workers full autonomy. The behaviours part of this is important. It’s right that as a leader you demonstrate and, if necessary, state what behaviours are appropriate and expected in your organisation. Most business owners come to rescue a difficult situation if you are one of those you should make sure employees now understand that they should come up with their own solutions to any hurdles or issues. For any problem they bring you they should at least have two solutions.

Enforce the use of digital collaborative tools


 You should help your employees participate in on-line and offline networks effectively. You will see that these networks bring forward ideas and deliver answers quicker; can facilitate different ways of working and are to be embraced to stimulate creative or effective thinking about core business issues.

You should be concerned with talent retention, allowing employees to increase their employability. They should be given the opportunity to acquire new skills; encouraged to network with communities sharing the same interests, and hence develop and demonstrate their own expertise using social media and on-line collaborative tools. They should feel they have a value in the job market and are paid on the right scale. Building a strong network will help them to find a job quickly in the unfortunate event of losing their job after the change of ownership.

A potential buyer will appreciate having a strong, effective, enthusiastic and self-sufficient team able to serve the business’ customers using large-scale project management systems or lightweight apps like Anydo. A buyer will certainly be ready to pay a premium for your business if he knows he can keep tabs on task status as employees can report on what they’re doing on a daily basis without feeling the stress of having a new boss telling them what to do .

Wade through and learn

Consider taking an extended break from your business to see how things will run when you’re not in the building. It’s likely that some things will go wrong, but use those errors as the raw material for making your business operate more independently of you – and therefore more valuable.

Bucket the mistakes

When you return, make a summary of the things that went wrong and categorise them into one of three buckets:

  1. Mistakes: errors where there is a right and wrong answer;
  2. Bottlenecks: projects that had difficulties because you weren’t there to provide your feedback;
  3. Stalled projects: initiatives that went nowhere while you were gone because you’re the person leading them.

Correct the mistakes

The first and easiest place to start is to simply correct the mistakes that were made. Usually mistakes are due to a lack of training rather than outright negligence. The right answer may be crystal clear in your head but not immediately obvious to your staff. Write up some instructions for next time the employees face the same situation. Make sure your instructions are clear, and share them with your team so everyone has them (a file sharing service like Google Drive or DropBox can be a helpful repository for your instructions).

Act with Lucidity

You will be changing your role to more strategic support and facilitation. You should keep people challenged, moving them on to achieve their potential and thus be successful in their own right, and as part of the collective success of the company. This will prepare them for a smooth and successful transition to the new owner. To effectively engage your people in innovation you should constantly walk around the company asking your people two basic questions: “How are you?” and “Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” You should also schedule weekly follow-up meetings where the team can see the progress of assigned tasks and collaborate on solutions where needed.

Give every employee a blank check

Front line employees should act first, make the customer happy, and ask questions later. Many employees know how to make a customer happy but lack the confidence to act. Consider each of these as a learning experience to improve on in the weeks ahead.

Recompense initiatives

You need to make sure your company culture recognises and rewards the right behaviours. Employee initiative and accountability should be rewarded. This could be just a honest thank you or it could be a recognition in front of the team this can go a long way.

You need the right people on board to take initiatives so you should make sure that you reward those that demonstrate the following 4 behaviours:

  1. Assurance: When the resources are scarce, people with assurance always find a way to make it happen.
  2. Collaborative propensities: The power of your company lies within the creative strength of the collective team. The power of diverse thinking and coordinated effort always leads to success. Collaboration is the heart of a winning team.
  3. Inquisitiveness: The more inquisitive a person is, the more likely he or she is to be open to learning, always looking for new opportunities.
  4. Empathy: Emotional intelligence is important as you want to have an unvarying community of collective well-being. This drives the foundation of trust in an organization and associates with teams pushing each other to be better and achieve greater things together.


It’s much easier to give employees more responsibility and create a culture of accountability when you have responsible and accountable people on your team.

Unblock your bottlenecks

If you’re being asked for your personal input on projects, there’s probably going to be a bottleneck if you’re not around. Make sure your staff is clear on the projects where you need to have a say and the projects where you don’t. Some employees may wrongly think that you need to approve all decisions. Make it clear when you want them to act alone and when you still need to have a say.

Re-assign stalled projects

The hardest part of making your business less dependent on you is dealing with projects that get stalled when you’re away. Start by asking yourself if you’re the right person to lead the project in the first place. As the owner of your business, projects often fall in your lap by default, rather than because you’re the best person to lead them. Categorise your stalled projects into two groups:

  1. Strategic projects you need to lead; and
  2. Non-strategic projects you are leading by default.

Hang on to the strategic projects, but delegate the non-strategic projects to someone on your team who is better suited to drive them forward..

Learning to step back isn’t easy, particularly if you consider your business one of your children. But if you want your business to scale, you need a thriving, happy and competent team.

If you’d like to know how your company performs on The Sellability Score, simply complete the 13-minute questionnaire. It is free and confidential.

If you would want to know more on how to transition out of your business and would want to explore what you should do please do not hesitate to call Jean-Bertrand de Lartigue on +44 1656 766 363 or e- mail him at or visit our website


Margaret Luttinger says:

I liked this article very much. It is considerably different from all others I have seen on succession. I wonder how many actually would do this well. Thanks for this sharing.

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