Selling an agency is a monumental step for any founder, filled with both excitement for the future and nostalgia for the past. However, the sale doesn’t always mean an immediate departure. A common stipulation in agency acquisitions is for the founder(s) to remain with the company for a designated period post-sale. This transitional period can vary widely and is crucial for both the seller and buyer for several reasons. Let’s explore the dynamics of this arrangement and what founders can expect when planning their exit.

Understanding the Transition Period

Why Stay On?

The rationale for founders staying on post-sale primarily revolves around ensuring a smooth transition of knowledge, relationships, and culture. Founders often possess invaluable insights into the agency’s operations, client relationships, and strategic direction. Their continued involvement can help maintain client confidence, transfer institutional knowledge to the new owners, and stabilize the agency during the changeover.

Determining the Length of Stay

The duration of the stay-back period is typically negotiated as part of the sale agreement and can range from a few months to several years. Factors influencing this timeframe include:

  • The complexity of the business: More intricate operations or service offerings may require a longer transition period.
  • The buyer’s expertise: Buyers new to the industry might request a longer stay to benefit from the founder’s experience.
  • Succession plans: If there’s a strong internal leadership team in place, a shorter transition might suffice.
  • Personal goals of the founder: Founders eager to move on to new ventures may negotiate for shorter commitments, whereas those seeking to ensure their agency’s legacy might opt for longer periods.

Expectations During the Transition

Roles and Responsibilities

The founder’s role post-sale can vary significantly. In some cases, they may continue in a leadership position, driving the agency’s strategic direction alongside the new owners. In others, their role might be more advisory, focusing on client relationships or specific projects. Clearly defining these roles and responsibilities upfront is crucial to avoid confusion and conflict.

Compensation and Incentives

Compensation for the transition period is another critical negotiation point. In addition to a salary, the agreement might include performance bonuses or earn-outs. This is where the founder receives additional compensation based on the agency meeting certain financial targets post-acquisition.

Challenges and Opportunities

Staying on after selling your agency can be challenging. It requires balancing the respect for the agency’s past with the need to adapt to new ownership and potentially a new strategic direction. However, it also offers opportunities to ensure the agency’s continued success, mentor the next generation of leadership, and solidify your legacy.

Making the Most of the Transition

Set Clear Goals

Work with the new owners to establish clear goals for the transition period. Whether it’s integrating systems, transferring client relationships, or achieving specific financial targets, having shared objectives can guide your efforts and measure success.

Communicate Openly

Maintain open lines of communication with the new owners, employees, and clients. Transparency about changes and the future direction of the agency can help alleviate uncertainties and build trust.

Plan for the End from the Beginning

Even as you embark on the transition, start planning for its conclusion. Whether it’s pursuing a new venture, retiring, or exploring other interests, having a plan for what comes next can make the transition smoother and more purposeful.


The decision to stay on after selling your agency involves a complex interplay of personal, professional, and financial considerations. The right length of stay varies based on numerous factors and requires careful negotiation and planning. Ultimately, the goal is to support the agency through a period of change, ensuring its ongoing success while paving the way for your next adventure. Remember, this transition period is not just about handing over the reins but about laying the groundwork for the future you helped build.