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Managing business in owner's absence

Could Your Business Manage Without You – Even for a Few Days?

As a small business, a sole trader or one man band, you just about do everything. You price the work, do the work, write the invoices and enjoy the profits. But what if you were taken out of the picture at short notice, with no say about it, even for a few days. What would happen to your business then? A few minutes spent planning now will pay dividends if the unexpected happens.

A recent and unexpected admission to hospital took me out of circulation for a few days with no access to phone, email or diary. For thirty six hour my life was out of my hands and in those of the ambulance service and the wonderful, wonderful NHS. Whilst I have no complaints about the care I received, on the contrary it couldn’t have been better and I’ve stayed in many less comfortable hotels, I am sure I would have got better more quickly or been less stressed by the whole thing if I knew by business was in good hands while I was incapacitated.

On the Friday morning when I collapsed in the bathroom I was due to meet with a client at ten thirty. While my wife was calling the ambulance and valiantly trying not to panic or let the kids see that Daddy is perhaps not as superhuman as they think he is, I was endeavouring to make my eyes focus on my phone so I could send an email to say I had been delayed. Quite rightly my wife confiscated my phone and hid it. She was the sensible one telling me to concentrate on getting well, or at least not dying (a bit over dramatic I thought).

Long story short, I was in hospital for thirty six hours and came home to a few pages of emails, mostly rubbish and about a dozen voice mails. All in all I think I was very lucky, but it could have been much more serious and I got to wondering what would have happened if it had been a longer absence.

Like most small businesses I keep notes of what I am doing from day to day, A diary for appointments and important events, a record of quotes and a contact list with notes about my clients and suppliers. These three files are a mixture of paper and digital, I like to see the week spread out in front of me across two pages but the quotes and contacts are better organised on my computer. It’s a pretty good system but there is a weak link, that’s me. Take me out of the equation and it all falls down. I guess, if your honest, it’s probably the same in your business.

So what can we do to avoid a personal crisis becoming a commercial disaster.

Here’s a few suggestions

  • Appoint a trusted person, spouse, partner or close friend to take control in the event of you being incapacitated.
  • Make sure they know where your diary, computer and phone are kept and what the passwords are.
  • Agree their limit of authority, they can call clients and rearrange appointments, answer emails in the broadest of terms and take messages. But they can’t negotiate price or go on a spree with your credit card.
  • Agree how much information they will give, to say you’re unwell is fine but to give the impression you may be away for weeks might lose you business. You can always update them later.

As soon as your fit and well, contact them all, assure them that its business as usual again and thank them for their patience.

None of us can afford to ignore out health. Dropping dead is very bad for business and a great inconvenience for the family. These few simple steps will help keep your business stable while you recover and remove some of the stress which can slow that process.

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