My first career was that of a dirty river rat for Outward Bound, guiding impressionable youth through life’s challenges all while paddling down rivers for days on end. During that time, one of my favorite stories to share was called I Can Sleep Through a Storm. I loved this story because the moral of it was about building foundations and preparedness. That when you’ve done the hard work ahead of time, you can rest easy knowing everything is ok.
In another chapter of my career, I saw this play out in real life. After a long time friend and fellow colleague had suffered a severe accident, I was immediately thrust into his leadership role for an organization that had NOT done the work and was not in the position to have someone completely new step in and take the helm. I was left scrambling to put the pieces of the puzzle together as quickly as possible. This left a lasting impression on me.
In the eight years I have been in business, I have taken pride in all these little things I had built into the business that I felt were preparing Confluence Business Solutions for the storm or for a worst case scenario. And when the storm arrived during this past month, all my efforts were put to the test. Looking back at what transpired has been an eye opener for me. I see places where my efforts paid off and I see places where there is room for growth and improvement.
So, here’s my unpopular but critically important question that I must ask you…are you ready for the storm? If something happened to you or a key player in your organization, could you sleep through the storm? Could you step out of your business for a week or a month or even longer and trust that the work will continue to get done? That your customers and clients will be served, that bills will be paid, that business will function properly?
That is what it truly means to sleep through the storm.
Some people call this their rainy day plan. I like to use the phrase, Get Hit by a Bus Plan. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I hope it will get you thinking about the steps you can take that will allow your business to run without you or a key person on your team.
- How to get in touch with you and your team – Have a mechanism in place for team members to know how to reach each other so that they are able to continue serving clients/customers.
- Employee access and permissions – This includes passwords, applications, documentation management, etc. Passwords are key and having a good password manager can not only be super helpful in making a fast pivot when crisis arrives, but is also super helpful with team members transitioning in and out of the company. In this era most businesses have embraced one cloud storage device or another and this can be helpful in storing/sharing documents.
- SOP’s – Not the most fun thing to talk about in the world, but having your policies and procedures written down helps with business continuity both in and out of crisis. We look at these as living documents that should be revisited on an ongoing basis. Knowing the SOP’s allows you to recognize what you’re living up to and what you’re not and during a crisis, helps keep everyone on point with their priorities and how the work gets done.
- Written Plan for who does what if the owner/key positions are pulled away. Organization charts are great for this.
- A list of key information like bank accounts and vendors. Where does money come from and where does it go? How does this get accessed, by who and whom may be the back up in the event there is an emergency?
- A list of intangible assets – This is that stuff you do that you don’t see as value but others can’t easily step into your shoes. The stuff that goes unnoticed, but just gets done.
- Intentional Cross Training – When everyone works in a silo, it’s very difficult to move people into different roles. Cross Training allows you to make quick changes as needed to keep the activity going.
- Buy/Sell Agreements – If your ownership is one part of a larger entity, and something happens to that other person, this can be a key element to preserving the health of your role in the business.
All the items listed above are a great starting point for things that can help with the most important and fundamental elements of preparedness for your business. These are your worst case scenarios. What I found the most eye opening during our storm was how important it is to build a business where sole dependency is not reliant on one single person. When that happens, it makes it challenging in the most extreme, but even the mundane is put to the test. Be thinking about ways to build vacations, sick time, and other things that might not cause the business to come to a screeching halt, but adds strain.