It might seem like a crazy thought for someone just starting a business; “How would my business cope without me?”. The fact is that the answer to the question for many people is a resounding “no”. In fact, the answer for both of my businesses is also a resounding “no” – so it’s something I’m gradually looking to combat as I recruit more staff, and gradually remove myself as the centre pin of the day to day operations.
It wasn’t until I sat down for lunch with the author of Built To Sell, John Warrillow, that I even considered whether my businesses could stand on their own two feet minus me. We discussed a few key points and ways in which I could make my businesses independent of me, with or without my involvement. Of course, John Warrillow’s main focus is on turning a business into something you can sell – but the basics behind selling a business hinge on you making your business run smoothly with or without you. If your business will crumble the second you walk away, it’s not a “sellable” business – and clearly can’t operate in your absence. Taking a step back and ensuring you take into account the fact you won’t always be around the run your business is very wise – if you build your business around your employees rather than yourself, it stands a much greater chance of survival – and becomes a lot more “sellable”.
Training is key
Every company must invest in training – training is key if you want to get the most out of your employees. Many moons ago I worked as a manager at McDonald’s – what struck me was the amount of paperwork and procedures in place – from an operational point of view they were a bit of a pain, from a managerial point of view they were essential. The basic idea behind McDonald’s is that every member of staff can do everything – from cooking cheeseburgers to serving cars on the drive-thru. This means if one person doesn’t turn in for work, or one person leaves unexpectedly, the result of their absence is negligible – and any potential operational issues negated.
Not every company will want to train every staff member at every role – but having the ability to rotate a workforce is priceless. If you run your company and you are the only manager on a day to day basis, what happens when you want to take a holiday? Having someone you know and trust who can step up and run your business in your absence is crucial – not only so you can relax when you’re on holiday, but also when you come to leave your business for pastures new, or you think about retiring.
In my situation there are still a few things I’ve yet to train my staff on – one of them being sourcing. I guard my suppliers with my life – and I’m dreading the day I have to share them with one of my employees (whom I do trust, for the record). I realize that in one of my companies, the line of business we’re in is such that the barriers to entry are few – any of my employees who decide to leave could easily set up as competitors – using knowledge I’ve taught them, and of course my suppliers.
Don’t try and take on the world – recognize when it’s time to start recruiting
Learning to relax and to trust employees with the day to day running of your business is essential. Initially you may have no employees – and that’s fine, but recognizing that you can’t take on the world single handedly is important. I probably should have started hiring far sooner than I did – in the end 16 hour days got the better of me, I always ask myself why did I let it get that bad? There really was no need.
Those who will be successful in the long run are those who can take a step back from their business and recognize that they can’t do it all alone. Lots of people don’t have the time or patience to try and train employees which is a great shame. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your business won’t be either. If you put in the hours and develop your business in such a way that it doesn’t rely on you, your efforts will be rewarded. It may seem like a harder option to do it all yourself – but it’s not, it’s actually much easier. Placing trust in new employees and training them up to take your business forward for you is much more challenging that trying to do it all yourself, believe me.
From the moment you start up a company, you should be looking at ways to make your company as independent as possible, so if you should leave suddenly, it can still operate without you. Lots of different ways of doing this are out there – some people choose to document procedures extensively, others tend to invest huge amounts in recruitment and training. Whichever route you go down, remember you won’t be around forever, and when the day comes to end your involvement in the business you’ve started, you really need to have peace of mind that your business will go from strength to strength even in your absence.