Have you heard the phrase, “If they got hit by a bus, (fill in the blank)?” It is a common phrase, one which you’ve likely uttered, for when we presume what it might be like if we’re not able to be here tomorrow. It sounds morbid and it rather is when we say it like that. Although it’s hardly meant to be morbid, the meaning behind it could mean the death of your business.
What if it happened? What if it happened to you or your key personnel? One of my former clients was a business group within a larger corporation whose director was literally hit by a bus. I know. You didn’t think that actually ever happened! Luckily she was ok, but instantaneously out of commission for 9 months of recovery.
She had been the director of this section of the business for 10 years. She knew it inside and out. Unfortunately, as all too frequently happens, she was the only one who knew the business operations that well. The managers and staff knew their roles well and continued excellent service to their current customers. However, the back office operations, monitoring, management and marketing fell mostly by the wayside. It should be said that upper management stepped in to provide overall leadership and guidance, but even they weren’t familiar enough with the day to day to pick up where the director left off. Besides semi-chaos ensuing in the back office, the director was also the primary for all marketing efforts. The business group lost a significant portion of market share in the 9 months she was gone. I was asked to help corral the chaos as the director came back to work part time. I completed a market assessment and we began to assess and document processes.
What if that happened in your business? What would happen if you suddenly were unavailable for the day to day? Think about your team; who are your most critical personnel? What if one of them, shall we say, won the lottery, resigned and jumped on a plane to Figi today? The example above was within a very large organization that had many standard processes in place. The same cannot be said for a lot of smaller businesses. If you’re a solopreneur and your business IS you, what would happen if you were suddenly incapable of working? Do you have anything documented in a way that you could hire a temporary assistant to take on non-specialty tasks, or to hand-off a project to a peer consultant? Being out of commission as a solopreneur is extra scary if you have no way to make some of your operations continue.
There are numerous reasons why process assessment and documentation are critical for your business; I’ll be writing more about it in the future. One of those reasons is ensuring the continuity of both operational and strategic leadership and execution through institutional knowledge management.
Questions & Actions for You
So what knowledge and information only resides in your head or that of your key personnel, and therefore walks out the door when they do? What if they won the lottery?
Identify key processes in your business and document them. Take the time now in order to save time, and possibly save your business, later.