You-Proofing Your Business: How to Make Your Company Less You Reliant and Build Value in the Process
Updated: Jun 23
You may be the creator, leader, and chief innovator of your company, but as brilliant as you are, without even realizing it, you might be doing yourself—and your company—a disservice.
The truth is, if your business is wholly dependent on you, its value diminishes. Should anything happen to you, the entire operation would grind to a screeching halt, and that’s not an attractive place to be, especially if you hope to sell one day.
Create Value by Stepping Away
Getting your company to a point where it can function without your constant input has many benefits.
For example, if you wanted to take some time off to travel the world, or enjoy some of the milestones of life, you can do so without having to think twice about it. If you had a family emergency or an illness, your world would not come crashing down around you just because you couldn’t operate the day-to-day.
These are just a couple of scenarios, but they happen. You shouldn’t think that you’re immune just because you have a business to run.
If you are the be-all-end-all of your company, and if it’s not your intention to work yourself into the grave, it’s time to get real. It’s about freedom for you and an increase in value for your company, because that’s the ultimate goal.
Here are some tips and suggestions to get you started on your you-proofing adventure:
Create standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Consistency is the cornerstone of any successful business, but that doesn’t mean you have to oversee every process.
Having a standard playbook for your day-to-day operations is critical. It’s a flagpole for your employees to rally around, and it’s also a way to gauge how efficiently your enterprise is running.
When you are creating your procedures, get as detailed as possible. Deconstruct each process into a fool-proof, step-by-step operating system that anybody can understand. That way, tasks can be completed consistently, done just the way you would do it, but without needing your direct input.
What do you know about your operations that your employees don’t?
Every company has its peculiarities. Think long and hard about “those little things” that come up from time to time and what you do to handle it.
Maybe it’s a specific approach that you use with demanding or skeptical customers, or perhaps it’s the settings you use on one of your machines to make it stop doing x-y-z. Whatever those little secrets are, don’t keep them to yourself. Make them known and include them in your SOPs so your team can keep the ship afloat in your absence.
Another valuable exercise is to write down the top 20 or 30 most common questions people might ask about your business. These questions should be based on issues or objectives your customers, vendors, or suppliers have. Think of every possible scenario, especially the most out-of-left-field kind. It’s these kinds of questions that put staff on the spot, so developing scripts around these issues will ensure nobody is caught off-guard.
While you might at first be a little overwhelmed at the idea of creating systems and responses for every eventuality, you’ll find that once you have it in place, it takes a lot of pressure off the entire team.
Make your team part of the decision-making process
When your team has a hand in decision-making, it’s a surefire way to get them to own their work. You can still have the last word but do solicit feedback on what’s working and what’s not working. Ask for suggestions about how policies and procedures can be adjusted to correct course.
One of the most significant barriers to building value in your business is, oddly enough, you.
If your managers and employees feel that they have to come to you for approval for every little thing, it’s a bottleneck that could impede productivity, innovation, and progress in general.
Some larger issues might still require input on your part, but the more your team understands how you would handle things, the less they will feel the need to consult you before moving forward. More autonomy equals fewer bottlenecks. Empower your team to take action.
See what really happens when you’re not around
Plan a vacation. Leave your team to run the show while you’re gone. Tell them you’ll be back a day later than you plan to return.
Once you’re back in the office, use that extra day that you’re not “officially” back to assess where things went wrong. Usually, the lapses fall into one of three categories:
Outright errors. This is where things went wrong in one way or another, resulting in a negative outcome.
What you should do: Solicit feedback from your team to see what went wrong in the process and how the situation can be remedied so that it doesn’t happen again. Ask the team to develop new processes and checklists to ensure that the proper procedures are in place going forward.
Blockages. What projects stalled out while you were away simply because you were not available to provide input or feedback?
What you should do: Make sure your employees know what items need your direct approval and which do not. Give them the autonomy to take the initiative as appropriate.
On hold. Projects on hold are matters that could not be completed because you are the driving force behind them.
What you should do: reassign or delegate non-strategic projects to employees who have the skills to complete them. If you don’t feel confident that anyone on your staff can handle certain tasks, think about bringing in a consultant to complete the project and mentor one or more employees through the process. Next time a similar situation comes up, they’ll be ready to take the reins.
You’re the boss, there’s no denying it. But if your goal is to sell your company or leave it to the next generation, be sure you’re leaving a legacy. Don’t stand in your own way. If you would like to learn more about how to drive value in your business, reach out today.