Making the Jump From Employee to Owner
Every person who ever clocked in at work has had this thought: “If this were my business, I would run things differently.”
But what happens when you actually have the chance to buy the business you work for? I found out in 2006 when I purchased GroupBaronet, the marketing company where I’d been working for eight years. I was only 31 years old, and I transitioned from manager to owner almost overnight.
The lessons I learned as I drastically changed roles helped me honor the business I valued enough to purchase, bond with a core team of star players and take the rebranded company, MasonBaronet, to the next level of success I dreamed of.
Here are five takeaways from my experience:
1. Don’t leave a vacuum behind when you transition. Becoming the owner means you’ll have tons of new responsibilities, from customer relationship management to business development, marketing, accounting and human resources oversight. Before you step out of your previous role, have a plan in place to cover your former responsibilities so vital tasks don’t fall through the cracks.
It’s not realistic to expect to do both your former job and your new one, especially since ownership will keep throwing you curve balls. You may miss certain aspects of your previous job, but you’ll discover the importance of your new role as owner and CEO -- to work on the business as opposed to in the business
2. Don’t be afraid to redefine the status quo. I had a lot in common with my company’s previous owner and respected the business he built enough to invest in and make it my own. However, my personality, style and goals were different. Taking ownership presented a delicate balance between nourishing the successful practices people were used to and leaning toward the vision I outlined for the evolution of the company.
3. Don’t be shocked if everyone doesn’t get with the program. When things change, some people won’t want to go with the flow. They may choose to hop off the train at various stops. That’s not the end of the world. You don’t have time to waste on stragglers or stubborn people. Instead, invest in those who share your ideals and want to be part of the team that carries the company forward.
4. Find someone to lean on. A major role shift is going to be stressful, no matter how positive it may be. Finding a mentor, business coach or trade organization of fellow professionals can be invaluable. Having a support system will give you perspective and lead to stronger choices earlier in your transition.
5. Be honest with employees and clients. When change comes, it’s natural for people to feel nervous. Set aside time to reassure both employees and clients. Be open about why you acquired the business and what you envision for the future. Projecting confidence and being positive will help your employees and clients feel more secure.
No matter what kind of company you’re considering buying, whether it’s a law firm or restaurant, it’s important to consider all the angles of life as a future owner before you make the sacrifice to sign on the dotted line.
Transforming from an employee to the owner is a huge step, but if you have stellar ideas and the will to make the business your own, the rewards and unlimited potential of becoming an owner are worth every challenge.
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Holly Mason is president and owner of MasonBaronet, a Dallas advertising firm specializing in branding. She provides the collaborative work environment that is essential to producing the highly creative and strategic work that is the agency's hallmark. Under her leadership, the agency has won numerous awards from Communication Arts, Telly Awards, Communicator Awards, AIGA Graphic Design Annual, Dallas Society of Visual Communications, the Dallas Ad League and The Houston Art Directors Show.