A business that you start should free you, not lock you in.

Too many business owners are locked in. That is, they may love running their business, but if they spend time away the business declines.
At this time of year, as our schools break-up, many people are looking forwards to summer holidays away with their families – free from the stresses of the daily work grind.
However, most business owners are caught with the dilemma of whether or not to leave their business to spend time away with their families, and if they do, they can’t switch off for fear of needing to stay in contact with the office “in-case something happens and they need me”. The net result is that precious family moments are lost whilst they constantly check their emails or answer calls on their phones….and no amount of money can buy that time back….!!!

Corporates spend a lot of money and effort on what they call ‘succession planning’. I am currently working with an executive in one of our larger clients on exactly that topic. Why? Well, corporates are as big as they are for one simple reason. The rely on systems and processes, not on personalities. If a personality leaves, it doesn’t matter, they have someone to take their place.

The business owner often says, “ah it is a lot easier for them, they are big enough to recruit people to cover other people”. True. But how did they get that big? Because even when they were small, they were not dependent on personalities. If people left it didn’t matter. That’s how they survived and became big.

You are running a business! A key step in your mentality is to appreciate that the business is not a place to make you feel wanted and needed. Actually the opposite. Your business should be a place that does not need you at all. Then you will be free to make choices and go do other enjoyable things in life, whilst some one else runs your business for you.

One way to get there is by building a Succession Plan.

Write down the skills you bring to your business. And don’t write down “it’s my personality”. That’s too vague and makes you sound irreplaceable. Accept that you are replaceable. Be specific. What are your actual skills? It could be selling, or creating solutions, or being a great engineer. Whatever your skills, write them down.

Now, it is highly unlikely that you will find one person who can cover all your skills. It’s your personal combination of skills that has made you unique and enabled you to start and run a business. You will find that some of your skills could be covered by someone, and other skills by some others.

Next, set a target for skills transfer. Take your chosen people through these stages to pick up the skills:

  1. Let them watch you execute the skill, then discuss how you did it
  2. Let them share doing the skill with you, and discuss how they could improve
  3. Do number 2 until you are confident that they could do the skill solo. Discuss with them all them how they are progressing.
  4. Let them go solo, but watch, observe and give feedback.

After 4, when you are both happy, you can let them go. But, make sure they are also training someone else to pick up these same skills as part of their new ‘job’ of doing these skills that you used to do.

If you set target dates for 1-4 above, you’ll find people will be motivated, especially if you build reward into the stages. And never succumb to the old excuse “I just can’t afford to train someone up”. If you believe that, then you may as well close the business now, because you are trapped. In reality, can you afford NOT to have a succession plan?