My husband was only 28 years old when he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
A few weeks earlier I had quit my job to help him focus on growing our rental business. But suddenly, instead of helping him manage properties, I was helping him get through brain surgeries and rounds of radiation and chemo—at a hospital nearly 100 miles away from where we lived. Our world was completely upended.
Thankfully, he survived the Hell that is brain cancer. And even though we were absentee owners for nearly two years, our business survived, too.
But what if this happened to you? Could your business survive without you there to oversee its day-to-day operation?
If not, here are five action steps you can take to ensure your business can run without you when it needs to.
1. Write Down an Emergency Absence Plan
If you’re out for a week, a month, or even longer, who’s going to do the day-to-day tasks that you normally do in your business? If nobody knows, then your business is in trouble.
You need to make a plan. And don’t just keep it in your head, write it down. Then share it with trusted employees before an emergency arises. Because during a worst-case scenario, you might not be able to verbally communicate it.
Here are several things you should clearly outline in writing:
Once your plan is written, keep it in a lock box labeled specifically for emergency business use. And remember to tell the person/people you leave in charge where to find the plan, which brings us to the next action step:
2. Keep a Locked Dropbox Labeled for Emergency Use
This lockbox should include all written instructions to be carried out in case of your emergency absence plus all passwords and account numbers needed to access bank and legal information.
3. Set Up an Emergency Cash Fund for Your Business
Where there’s no cash flow, there’s no business. So, do some calculations and start saving so you have enough money for your business to survive for at least three months. Because, sadly, even with an emergency absence plan, your business might lose important clients, or operations may slow down because you’re not there.
Here are a few things to think about when making your calculations:
4. Set Up a Remote Work Station
Working remotely can be an option if your absence is due to an illness or accident that requires a bit of recovery time, but doesn’t completely zap all of your energy.
So, why not set one up now?
You can start by backing up your important data in the cloud, and listing the types of activities you can do or manage away from the office. And you can even set aside a day to test how well it works.
5. Train Your Employees to Be Decision Makers
Nobody can run your business with the same passion and drive as you. But if you train a team that understands your company’s goals and values, they can get pretty close.
So, learn to delegate tasks and train your employees to be decision makers. If you don’t, you’re doing them, your business, and yourself a big disservice. Because, as Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.”
And having a team of decision makers (instead of a workforce that will panic or get lazy in your absence) is the best way to ensure that your business can survive even when you aren’t there.
Do you have any other tips to help business owners navigate an unplanned absence? (If so, share them in the comments section below.)
Holly Hughes-Barnes is a business blogger and brand journalist. She writes blog posts, case studies, and ebooks that build trust, bring in leads, and make more sales for B2B companies. She lives in TN with her husband, son, nearly-blind dog, and totally naked cat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.