You’ve done it! You’ve bought a product, service, business, or company, whether it’s a “Starter” business or a business you plan to operate and grow, congratulations! Let’s look at what happens in the first 24 hours after an online business acquisition.
Thankfully, you are now moving on to the good part, when you finally get to start earning money on your investment and growing your new venture.
The first 24 hours can feel like a whirlwind of excitement, lots of new responsibility, and a bit of trepidation concerning whether you’re prepared for the job.
The customers likely won’t know all these changes are happening behind the scenes. That means from day one, you’re going to have to deal with customer issues even though you have little idea how to resolve them or where to turn for questions.
It’s ok, and it’s just like the first day of a new job. Except for this time, you’re the boss, and you get to ask all the questions.
The Handover Process
The buyer and seller will set up a date and time to begin the handover process. This process usually will take 1-3 days.
If you purchase from an experienced broker, the seller should create a handover document and action list to walk through each step that needs to be completed. These steps will move the financial, technical, and business documentation assets to the new owner’s possession.
There are always hiccups in the transition and handover process. It’s just the nature of moving such a big operation from one owner to the other. Most are small, maybe a login that doesn’t work immediately. Or a customer service inquiry that takes a few days to get an answer from a third party.
Remember, most online companies never assume a customer will suddenly want to change ownership of an account. Therefore, changing owners can sometimes be challenging, as it’s not common. It’s essential to keep the account’s history and transfer ownership, not create a new account and move the assets into that new account.
Email Handover Preparation Best Practice
With the former, you need to edit the account information for the service manually. For the latter, you might have to speak with customer service to create a completely new administrator account to move the responsibility from one admin to a new one. It all depends on the company you’re working with and how helpful they are with these types of ownership questions.
Financial Data Handover Challenges
The most difficult account type to transition accounts that touch financial data. Banks, Paypal, Stripe, Braintree, etc. need to conform to Know Your Customer laws. They can’t just let someone new change the bank account information and start taking payments. Sometimes this can hold up the handover or initial payouts for a few days. In a few cases, this process can last a few weeks for larger vendor relationships.
The seller and the new owner can keep track of what payments and transactions occurred during this time period and settle the balances privately. This solution isn’t perfect for taxes or business reporting. Still, as a business changes ownership from one owner to the next, these are the types of small things that work themselves out eventually, but it’s just not seamless each time.
Handover of Business Documentation
One of the most important steps in the first 24 hours after an online business acquisition is documentation transfer. The SOP’s of the business, marketing materials, graphics/videos, or onboarding material are the typical types of documentation you should receive.
Good brokers will already have these materials on hand for each turnover. Still, it never hurts to ask more questions about additional documentation that may not seem ‘necessary’ but might help in the future.
In my case, I have hundreds of historical Evernotes that I usually zip up and pass along as a referenceable ‘database’ of questions from contractors, customers, and third parties that might be helpful someday in the future.
Documentation is not something you need to dig into in the first 24 hours or even the first week. It will be more instrumental as the business continues under your supervision. Certain knowledge gaps will appear that were previously kept in the prior owner’s mind, so adding those small pieces will augment the documentation over time.
Record Your Turnover Meetings
Another tip I’ve learned is to video record your turnover sessions. You never know what small tidbit mentioned in the turnover might become critical years later in the future.
I had an instance where the emergency backup encryption key notes were not helpful enough to decrypt the backups over time. The recorded session of the handover proved invaluable. I was able to find the conversation regarding those backups and finally unlock the database. Whew!
Secure Asset Transfers
One of the most critical aspects in the first 24 hours after an online business acquisition is the transfer of security assets. The security asset transfer step is handing over passwords/encryption keys and subsequently changing passwords.
There are a few ways to think about password changes. First, I believe that anything financial (PayPal, Stripe, bank accounts, etc.) should be changed immediately. If you have any issues with those accounts, the prior owner likely won’t be able to help resolve them, so it’s best to have those accounts accessible only by the new owner from the start.
Other critical services that are instrumental to the business can keep the same passwords for a few days so that the prior owner can access them, just in case there are problems.
Creating your own admin user accounts and leaving the prior owner with access for a few weeks/months isn’t the worst idea. If you encounter a major issue, the prior owner can likely fix it more quickly…so long as they still have access.
For example, I’ll leave the prior owner with access to GitHub repositories and other dependent services for a few months until we’re sure everything is working correctly, and my team understands the daily functioning of the system. The changing of so many accounts and credit cards can make one or two dependent services fail unexpectedly. With access to logs, repos, etc., the prior owner can usually identify and fix those failures more quickly than a new owner.
Other less critical applications and services can be changed within the first few days at your leisure. The prior owner likely isn’t really interested in spying on your first few days of running the business, so it’s not critical to make all of those changes in the first 24 hours.
Go Slow, Be Deliberate, with Security Changes
I’ve tried to make 30 password changes on the first day. Guess what? A few get messed up because of all the different peculiarities of each service. Months later, I’ll go back and wonder, “did I change this correctly? Did I correctly add 2FA with an authentication device and not my cell phone number?”
I ended up in this double-guessing game going over and over each security measure again.
Some security changes and 2FA enablements shouldn’t be done under the pressure of the first day. These accounts can have a few days of delay. That way, you can devote your full attention to locking down your services properly. Each online service has different levels of security. You will want to spend the time making sure you enable their most secure option(s).
Testing and Validation
Finally, the asset transfers, the documentation handover, the changing of critical passwords, and the business’s discussion are done. Now you get to spend a little time testing and validating that you have the proper access, knowledge, and understanding to move forward. You can walk away from the handover meeting without worrying that the business will collapse while you sleep.
Remember, you have somewhere between 30-90 days in your Asset Purchase Agreement that obligates the prior owner to train you on the business. You don’t have to know everything in the first 24 hours after an online business acquisition. You need to know the most critical items. That will keep the business running seamlessly for customers for those first few days.
Testing out a few of the most critical pieces – can you log into the important administrative tools, log into the financial services, etc. – is enough for that first day. By now, your head will likely be full of tons of new information and not able to absorb much more.
End the day by verifying what you do already know and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
The real work starts tomorrow.
Wrapping Up the First 24 Hours After an Online Business Acquisition
Honestly, I’m usually exhausted that evening and need a break from technology. The first 24 hours can be a whirlwind.
This isn’t necessarily bad. It’s best just to let the business run for a bit. Just watch all the things you couldn’t gain access to previously. Like real-time analysis, customer behavior, etc. I especially enjoy watching 💰payment💰 alerts show up on my phone that I didn’t get the day before. 😀
That next day, start working the business as the owner. You’ll come up with dozens of questions for the prior owner(s). Send them to them once or twice a day. Schedule your first planned call for a few days later to discuss bigger items that can’t be covered via email. Keep track of any lingering questions where you don’t have a thorough answer for the previous owner.
Take a moment to savor this part of the transition because it only happens a few times, even for a very high turnover type of buyer.
This is a time to let your dreams run a little open and free, thinking of what you can do to create an even better business than you already bought.