You’re not supposed to know. But you sense the difference. There are whispers everywhere. Why doesn’t management replace people who depart? Why are they always huddling together behind closed doors? And why do they keep delaying purchases and decisions? Of course, someone will ask your CEO if the company is on the block. He’ll deny it, before sneaking in a qualifier about being willing to listen. And everyone sees right through him.
You’re not surprised. Years ago, the company was full of possibilities. Employees considered themselves among family. But the culture shifted to churn-and-burn. Now, you hold your breath when the company doles out pink slips before the holidays. Deep inside, you know that’s your fate. The higher-ups may be knotted up in guilt, but that doesn’t change reality. Once the sale closes, you’ll get the boot and they’ll get a parachute.
In most roles, employees aren’t privy to their company’s inner workings. In uncertain times, they’ll look for hidden meanings in leadership’s words and actions. Think your company is up for sale? Look for these signs:
1) Hyperbole: Get ready for a PR blitz. Your CEO will tout the market you serve as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” He’ll write op-eds, laden with terms like “market demand”, “rapid expansion”, and “perfectly positioned to…” Like Stepfords on uppers, your leaders will echo his sunny outlook. You almost miss those dire warnings of “tipping points” from years past. Despite the feel-good rhetoric, you still wonder why candidates keep turning down key positions at your company. It just sharpens the cognitive dissonance. Of course, silence will eventually replace management’s bravado. By that time, your leadership will have insulated themselves, comforted by knowing someone else will clean up their mess.
2) Cost Controls: You’re going lean, so get ready. You’ll see your budget slashed, pay frozen, training ignored, and travel moratoriums issued. Holiday and off site meetings are scaled back – and the latest downsizing is perfectly calibrated to avoid paying big salaries and bonuses. All the while, management outsources more work, fights product returns, and delays vendor payments. In this atmosphere, you’ll pinball through a maze of approvals, as management tracks everything. It’s all about the short-term and bottom line now. For all you know, your people may not be pulling the strings anymore.
3) Sales Pushed: Sales is the only department hiring. That probably means the higher-ups are desperate to move inventory and goose cash flow. Behind the scenes, they’re pressuring the sales force to ram prospects through the funnel, slash prices, secure longer contracts, and push for early payment. And why not – most of your executives won’t have to live with those deals.
4) New Faces: Your office has visitors, but you don’t know who. They don’t sign into the guest log – or interact with you. Maybe they’re potential clients. But they could also represent your future boss. Naturally, you imagine who they are. Is it a competitor who’ll ride in like a conqueror? Or, could it be a VC firm hell bent on stripping you down even more? Either way, you don’t know if they’ll respect what you’ve accomplished – and that scares you.
At the same time, expect senior management to add an advisor to the org chart. If you dig through this Obi-Won’s record, you’ll find a merger or acquisition, guaranteed.
5) Key Defections: When senior leaders – particularly from sales, finance, and human resources – start jumping ship, the A players start scrounging for gossip. With uncertainty comes fear. So watch the social media profiles of your leaders and top performers. If they’re joining associations, collecting references, and networking with competitors and recruiters, they’re on the prowl. If you track recent connection patterns on Linkedin, you may even unmask your mystery buyer.
6) Murmurs: Your competition starts warning key accounts that you won’t be around in six months. The local chamber guy pops off after a few drinks. A former executive makes cryptic tweets. And the office grapevine fields calls from all corners. Consider these people to be your Greek chorus. They are a reminder that the clock is ticking – and your résumé needs work.
7) Questions: It’s like a scene from the movie Office Space. Suddenly, the higher-ups care more about process than about results. They’ll suffocate you with new policies. And have you outline what you do – and how – so they can train a peer. If you’re deemed trustworthy, they may even sidle up and ask for your personal stack rankings. They’re making up lists and checking them twice. And nothing good ever comes from that.
8) Poor Performance: This should be a dead giveaway, but many employees are oblivious (or in denial). Imagine your company misses another quarterly sales goal. Worse, they barely cover margins after their best sales year ever. The stock price keeps dropping and the competition just pole vaulted over you. If this happens, your bosses will assemble the bankers. It’s only a matter of time before the vultures start circling.
9) Holding Pattern: Everything has grown real quiet. For once, big changes aren’t stampeding towards you. Instead, you feel adrift. You’ve experienced slumps, but operations have seemingly stopped. Reviews and sales goals have been pushed back. Your website and marketing collateral haven’t been updated in eons. There’s no buzz, no initiatives, no investments… or evidently no plan. And there’s a prevailing sense that the company has grown tired, if not irrelevant. You’re in wait-and-see mode. And everyone is starting to ask the same question: Is all this really worth it?
10) Worst Instincts: You’re doing so much with so little – and it’s wearing on people. Your culture has taken on a Lord of the Flies feel. Nothing seems to get done and no one takes responsibility. Everyone is positioning themselves and re-writing history to look good. Even your CEO chimes in about doing what’s right…even if it costs your job. It’s all self-serving. Sure, some fear seeing their salaries or roles diluted (or a new team nosing around their fiefdoms). Most likely, they’ve already witnessed what happens when a company is sold: The new owners gut departments and systematically weed out survivors over time. And you’re powerless to stop it. All you can do is to hope for the best…and start planning for the worst.
Continue at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/08/09/10-signs-your-company-is-for-sale/#1a797bd840b4
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