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The recent disruption to flights caused by the volcanic ash made me wonder what would happen to my business in my absence. Many businesses are dependent on a small number of key personnel and many business owners and senior managers do not like taking any time off from their business. So what would happen to your business if you were unable to work or keep in touch for whatever reason?
I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some steps that you could take to minimise the impact of your absence from the company in future and which would enable you to take a break from the business.
Build a strong team. It is critical to have a strong team working in your business and to invest in their training and development. Alongside this you need to have good suppliers that you can rely on, whether this be your accountant, bank, solicitor or suppliers of your products and services.
Share your knowledge and experience. Some people are protective of their own knowledge and experience and do not share this with other members of staff. This will lead to problems if these people are absent. Sharing your knowledge and experience will help to develop others and enable them to take on your responsibilities if you are not there.
Have regular team meetings. Regular team meetings will enable everyone in the team to be aware of what is happening in the business, such that work will be able to be completed in the absence of any team member.
Make communication a high priority. In any business communication is critical to its success. This communication may take many forms, including newsletters, regular chats, meetings and updates, communication of the business strategy, plans and targets, as well as operational updates.
Involve your team in decision making. Don't take all the decisions yourself as this will result in the business being totally dependent on you. Involve your team in decision making and delegate decision making to them.
Outsource. Some of the above may not be relevant if your business is just you. However there are still things that you can do. You can outsource many processes, especially the regular ones, such as answering phone calls, arranging meetings, order taking, fulfilment, book-keeping etc. This will all reduce the dependency of the business on just you and outsourcing can also help bigger businesses minimise costs and avoid business interruption.
Delegate. Are there things that only you know how to do? This is a very risky strategy as who will do them when you are not at work. Therefore, delegate tasks to others and ensure that someone else knows how to do what you do.
Use associates. Another idea for those of you who run businesses on your own is to link up with other people in the same field as you who can service your clients in your absence. I have seen this work very well where the associates are carefully selected, share the same values as you and where they understand your customers and are trained in your processes and procedures.
Document processes and procedures. Are your processes and procedures documented? If not you may want to consider documenting them. This will help understand what needs doing if you or a key member of staff is absent.
Automate where possible. The more manual processes that you have the harder it is for people to understand what needs doing in your absence. If processes are automated and the data is available across the business, then it is easier for others to cover for you.
Let people know where you keep things. A good filing system will be very useful if someone is taking over your work, whereas lots of messy piles of paper on your desk will not.
Take out insurance. There are different types of insurance policy that can help your business in these circumstances, such as key man insurance for you and your key members of staff and business interruption insurance may also be worth considering.
After reading this, you may want to consider the different ideas, review your business risk areas and understand what action you need to take to enable you to be able to take a break from your business, to enable you to be less dependent on key staff members and to put your business in a position that it will survive without you.
Author: Liz Makin
Published: April 2010
Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.
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