This is a Support Article for the “How To Sell a Fishing & Hunting Lodge, Camp or Resort Handbook“. Would You Like a PDF Copy of the Handbook Sent to your Email?
A sale is one of the most difficult transitions in the life of a Fishing & Hunting Lodge, Camp or Resort. As the seller, it is critical that you help guide your employees and loyal guests through the transition, and to provide reasons for them to remain with the business.
Professional and clear communication is key to successfully guiding your guests and employees through the business-ownership transition process.
By carefully and strategically informing the individuals affected (especially the more valuable ones) about the sale and building their confidence in what lies ahead, you will be helping the new owner succeed and as a result also be helping these same individuals.
The purpose of this how-to article is to guide you through the process of communicating your decision to sell. It covers the following:
- Identifying who’s affected and needs to be notified
- Dealing with Potential Reactions
- Creating a clear Communication Plan
Identifying Who’s Affected and Needs to be Notified
Fishing & Hunting Lodges, Camps and Resorts take a community to operate successfully, there may only be a few employees but there are a lot of service providers and other interested parties that will be affected by the sale of your business.
It’s prudent to decide who needs to know, and in what sequence they should find out.
It’s a good idea to first list broad categories and then input the names of key people under each broad category heading. You may find it helpful to rank them according to the relative importance of the decision to them.
This exercise will also help you to prioritize. Here are a few of the most important headings:
- Family, important others
- Key employees
- Other staff
- Distributors, partners
- Trade media
- Advisors – accountant, attorney etc.
- Government registrations, tax
Dealing With Potential Reactions
Depending on the buyer’s post-purchase intentions, there may be little for guests, staff or service providers to worry about, but its still important to consider how this transition will be perceived and to mitigate any potential negative reactions.
Many of these challenges will be for the new owner to manage but as an ethical seller it is best you do all that you can to help setup the new owner of your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort for success.
Below we discuss in greater detail the two most important stakeholders reactions; your employees and your guests.
Your Employees Reactions:
Your staff will be shocked to learn that they will soon be answering to a new boss. But telling them that you’re planning to sell before the transaction is complete would be unwise.
Although there are some circumstances that require you to inform key employees that you are working on selling your business, it’s almost always the wiser decision to wait until the deal has closed before informing them.
Too much advance notice can trigger an exodus of employees. Many of these employees that resign during an ownership transition were considering resigning anyway and see it as an opportunity for a fresh start as well. These types of resignations really can’t be avoided but there are some that can.
The resigning of key employees can affect the sale price and lengthen the amount of time it takes to attract prospective buyers. So as much as possible, it’s important to delay the announcement of the sale until all contingencies have been met and the deal is in the final stage.
When you finally do sit down with employees to break the news, it’s best to be upbeat and honest. Reinforce the message that the ownership transition is good for everybody and that you have full confidence that they will do right by the new owner.
Often times new ownership brings fresh energy to a tired business. If you’ve picked the new owners because they share your values, explain that important fact to the staff.
Your employees will likely have many concerns about how new ownership will impact them so make it clear you are ready to answer any questions that they have.
Encourage employees to take ownership of their jobs and feel confident about their role at the fishing & hunting lodge camp or resort no matter who owns the business.
A transition period can be a very good thing to build into the sale process in which you’ll stay involved with the business after the sale has closed. Especially when it comes to fishing & hunting lodges, camps & resorts, your guests can be very loyal to you, and employees as well, so staying on for a bit to ease in the new owners is a great idea.
Your Guests Reactions:
It’s important to communicate information about the sale to your loyal guests.
Be mindful of the need to preserve confidentiality early in the process and coordinate the release of information with the new owner, but don’t wait too long. You want your guests to be well informed.
When appropriate, discuss the transition with your guests, including the level of involvement you will have with the business going forward. Provide as many details as you can at each stage of the process.
As you might expect, guests will have specific concerns during an ownership transition but primarily they’ll be concerned with, will their vacation to your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort change at all?
One way to announce the change to new ownership is by sending a letter or an email announcement to your guests list. Some things to include in your announcement are:
- How much you have appreciated their business and how you’ve enjoyed owning your business.
- Tell them that you will be transferring ownership of the business, and when the new owners will be taking over.
- Give a brief description of the new owners, including a bit of background and why you are willing to endorse this new owner as the representative of your business.
- Explain that their guest experience at your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort will not change, unless this is not the case. If you know what the new owner has planned, you can let your clients know what those changes will be and when they will be put into place.
- Disclose if they will be seeing a change in price for the services they receive.
- Be sure to address (in collaboration with the new owner) any concerns of guests who have already booked their vacation.
- Give your guest contact information if they have any questions about the transition.
- Let your guests know that you sincerely thank them for their business and know they will be in good hands with the new owners.
During your ownership tenure, clear communication and caring for your guests undoubtedly helped you maintain a positive relationship. By communicating your business sale confidently, clearly and strategically your guests will be more likely to embrace the new owner and continue to enjoy a quality vacation at your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort.
This leads appropriately to the Communications Plan where the above considerations can be incorporated, in the way messages are constructed and communicated.
Creating a Clear Communication Plan
A communication plan is a road map for getting your business transition message across to the key stakeholders that we identified at the beginning of this article. We’ve already pinpointed who you need to get this information to, below we layout how you intend to communicate it.
Taking the time to specify the goals of your message and defining what a successful outcome looks like will alleviate some of the stress of this process.
Communication Plan template
Objectives – what you want the individual in each stakeholder group to think, and do, after the communication is received.
Key Messages – be clear what these messages are, and how they need adaptation for each stage of the sale process – taking into account the psychological factors highlighted in Section 2 above
Targets – the different stakeholders (as in section 1 above), and how the message requires adjusting for relevance to each audience
Methods – the specific methods most suited to each audience and situation, and the most conducive environment – individual one-to-one meetings, group briefings, PowerPoint presentations, website news and blogs, social media, press releases, email shots, formal letters, telephone, and so forth
Responsibilities – who will do which tasks
Timing – including “achieve by” dates, milestones, perhaps within identified stages of the plan
Budget – for expected costs, for example taking staff on an off-site briefing, or planning wider involvement in transition planning sessions
Measuring success – diarize regular review meetings to ensure that everything remains on track, taking corrective action where necessary
It’s recommended that you go through this template for each stakeholder group identified above. Keep in mind that until final legal sale documents have been signed by you and the buyer of your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort, and the sale is public knowledge, be very careful about confidentiality.
You’ll know many of the people that need to be notified on a personal level, the key to successfully communicating to those affected that you’ve decided to sell the business, is to think how you’d feel if you were in their situation. How would you like to be treated?