When you first acquire a new a small business, it’s tempting to make sweeping changes and turn the place upside-down right away. However, doing so probably isn’t in your best interest. After all, the best part about acquiring an existing business is that it comes with an existing customer base.
The important thing is to ease into it, because most customers have drastic shifts in their favorite business’s hours, philosophy or menu. Here are some tips on how to gracefully take over and make changes without alienating your current customers:
Don’t insult them. Sure, this one seems obvious but it has to be said. It’s a really, really, really bad idea to make disparaging remarks about your newly acquired business within earshot of your loyal customers. After all, they obvious liked the place just as it was. Even if your remarks are warranted, keep them to yourself or out of earshot of your customers.
Do it slowly. Try to cool your jets and not make all of the changes you envision all at once. If you space small changes out over a period of time, chances are they will be met with much less resistance than one gigantic overhaul. Heck, the existing customer base might not even notice.
Know what works. Before you start making big time changes, talk with your customers. People love to give their opinions, and this way you’ll get a feel for what they really love about your small business (and what they don’t). The more you know about what is working for you, the less of a chance there is of making a change that could backfire.
Reward loyalty. Be sure to thank those customers that are willing to stick with your business through your new ownership and your changes. It’s not always easy to see your favorite establishment lose the look you’ve grown so accustomed to or get rid of your favorite menu item. Make your business’s loyal customers feel like VIP’s - give them coupons and freebies to keep them coming back long after the changes take place.
How do you make changes when acquiring a new business?