A few weeks ago, I found out that having a business that can run without me saved my day. Was there room for improvement? I found out there was. So here’s a share-and-learn for us all to benefit from.
Are you prepared for what happens to your business when you’re hit by a bus?
It’s what happened to me a few weeks ago. Well, I wasn’t exactly hit by a bus, but it certainly felt that way.
A couple of weeks ago, my mum was admitted to the hospital. It was a shock, but on a stretch, I still did some work in between hospital visits. A week later, she passed away. And with little warning, I was on leave for 2 weeks. My involvement in my event business came to a grinding halt. And to be honest, nothing in my world mattered. I felt like my world came crushing down in a big way!
It is the stuff nightmares for business owners are made of.
Beforehand, I thought I had a business continuity plan for this kind of scenario. And I had.... But was it good enough?
A Business That Can Run Without Me
Whenever a new team member joins my company, I drill into them to immediately to save all documents in our shared folder, not on a desktop. (If it’s not in the shared folder, we assume it’s not done. Simple!) Everything has a place. We all know where to store or find things, what the naming convention is, and how the electronics work. I am very strict in keeping project plans meticulously up to date, so another team member can pick it up and fill in the gaps without blinking.
It means that if a bus actually hit you, the entire world (including your business) doesn’t come tumbling down.
But it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as that.
People need to be able to go on holiday without causing a massive upheaval to the business. People can get sick and go off work for a week or more. Heck, it can be as simple as staff being at full capacity with their workload while somebody else isn’t, so a hand-over makes sense.
Whatever the reason, I make sure these real-life interruptions don’t come at the cost of the productivity. When you think of it, the hours my team needs to spend on hand-overs or piecing the project puzzle together is time we are not productive. That’s not best practice when you run a business.
My Business Contingency Plan To The Test
I guess the past few weeks really put my business contingency plan to the test.
Was it bad? No, it wasn’t. Some things actually went smoothly.
Was it perfect? Nope. There’s definitely room for improvement.
And with this experience (and the trauma of it) fresh in my mind, this is the perfect share-and-learn opportunity for any small to medium-sized business out there.
So let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly of my experience.
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
The Good: My Business Contingency Plan In Action
As mentioned, I actually had prepared for a situation like this.
So, when overnight I wasn’t available for my business, my team picked up the client delivery components without even batting an eye. Everybody was totally in the loop with the what, why, where, and when, and our events stayed seamlessly on track.
As for client relationship, which is a big part of my responsibility, emails went out to let clients know I was away, and that my senior event manager was there for them. People were extremely understanding.
My VBM continued to run the team meetings in the same old fashion she had the week before, … and the week before that. The overhaul of our SOPs that were in progress simply continued.
But it wasn’t all fluff and roses.
The Bad: The Gaps In The Continuity Plan
This year, my goal is to move even more into a CEO role. And interestingly enough, it was the area I already had on my radar due for change that proved to be the gaps in the continuity plan.
I guess the unexpected leave brought them even more to the forefront.
So what area needs my attention in order to truly have a business that can run without me?
1. My Inbox And My Calendar
At the moment I manage these myself. So when I suddenly became unavailable, there was nobody but me to reschedule the external meetings. Luckily, I use Calendly, so it was easy enough to let my contacts reschedule for the following week. I also put a message on my Inbox telling people to reach out to my senior manager. That said, my inbox still needed a reasonable clean up upon my return. The VA-hire I was pondering could have further ensured a business that can run without me.
I also personally oversee the podcast editor, the content writer, and the VA for the podcasts. Of course, as soon as I was away, that came to a grinding halt. It would have helped if had planned out my content and record my episodes. Unfortunately, my business contingency plan had a clear gap in this area. More importantly, having a marketing operational manager would have avoided this. And to be fair, it’s on my radar, but I’m mulling over what shape or form this needs to take. (Employee vs. contractor). I guess it’s decision time!
3. The Sales Component Of My Business
This part of the business is still relying heavily on me. I personally look after the discovery calls with potential new clients, and take care of proposals and job costings. We were fortunate in that the only enquiries that came through were from existing clients. My senior event manager could pick these up, work out the job scope, and give the clients some indication of capacity. But it should be easy enough to teach my team how to job cost and create a proposal. They definitely are capable and I have the templates to do it. So it really comes down to putting SOPs in place and training people.
4. SOPs For Tasks That I Carry Out
Which brings us to number 4. As mentioned, for some of my tasks, I have templates, but no SOPs. So, as a part of the business continuity plan, I will make recordings of all the steps as I do them. Then, my virtual business manager will translate my video into a standard manual. Bob’s your uncle.
Last but not least, payroll is something that I’m not prepared to give up yet. When I go on holiday, I ask my finance manager to do this for me in the weeks that I’m away, or I’ll do it 2 weeks in advance. What to do when I get hit by a bus? I need to think about that one.
The Ugly: The Realisation Of What Could Have Been
So, In the end, did it get ugly?
Luckily, it didn’t.
But it easily could have if I wouldn’t have been so focussed on having a business that can run without me.
As recent as today, I was talking about another business owner who landed in a similar situation. She was so crushed by the bereavement she wasn’t able to pick up her usual business responsibilities until 2 months later. Only to find out that her business was absolutely shattered, and it took her another 4 months to build it back to where it was on the day her world came crumbling down. That’s 6 (SIX!) months of lost revenue!
So,... the question you need to ask is: can you afford to lose 6 months of revenue? And if not, what’s your business continuity plan?
How's Your Business Continuity Plan?
If this caused you a bit of panic, I’m really sorry I did that. But also, it’s actually good news because now you can DO something about it! AND you don’t have to do it on your own.
If you want to talk about this, reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org , or jump on over to Instagram, and send me a voice message or a text message. My handle is SandraJulian.co.