How to Ensure Your Business Can Run Without You

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If you’ve built your business from scratch, with all the excitement of being your own boss, you might not like the idea of your business running without you. After all, you like being in charge and calling the shots, and since this whole business was your idea, you deserve to be at the top of it. Handing the reins to someone else is depressing to think about—and seems like it might be bad for business. But the reality is, if you want your business to be stronger, you need to build it in a way that allows it to survive without you.

Why It Pays to Prepare

There are many reasons why it’s a good idea to ensure your business can run independently:

Planned departures.

Vacations are indisputably good for your physical and mental health. If you feel that your business is entirely dependent on you to operate successfully, you’ll be disincentivized to take those important vacations. Ultimately, that will leave you drained of mental and emotional resources, and if left unchecked, you’ll be driven to burnout.

Unplanned departures.

If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident or are rushed to have emergency surgery, or if you have to deal with a family situation, you should be able to take action independently, confident that your team can take over in your stead. You can’t be available 24/7, so it pays to have a failsafe system in place.

Cohesion and adaptability.

Creating systems that can exist and run your business without you encourages more cohesion between your team members. It also forces your business to be more adaptable; there’s no single structure or single person on your team that’s absolutely necessary to continue.

Change Agent Role

Long-term sustainability.

Of course, creating a business that can function without you also primes the business for long-term sustainability. If you plan on exiting the company by selling it or passing it on to someone else, this sustainability will become even more important.

How to Prepare Your Business

So what actionable measures can you take to prepare your business?  These are just a few to get you started:

Establish a chain of command.

Workplace hierarchies are starting to fall out of fashion, but you should still have a clear chain of command, ready to take over in your absence. Designate a second-in-command, or at least a handful of people who can each take over one or more of your core responsibilities. In your absence, it should be clear which people are responsible for taking over which roles and responsibilities.

Document everything you can.

If you were unexpectedly incapacitated, would there be anyone in your company who knew what you did on a daily basis? Would they know how you organize your files, or where you keep your passwords? It’s important to take the time to document everything you can about your job; that way, someone can step in during a worst-case scenario.

Create redundancy.

It’s also a good idea to create redundancy, and cross-train your employees. Within your business, no one should be the sole keeper of knowledge. Each responsibility should be competently coverable by at least two parties. Facilitate cross-training and educational opportunities to ensure this is the case.

Empower decision making and initiative.

It’s also a good idea to create opportunities for the people below you to make decisions autonomously, and feel free to take initiative on their own projects and ideas. The more free they are to pursue their own roles, the more comfortable they’ll be without a leader—or in taking on their own leadership positions. Give them space; besides, micromanaging is rarely effective anyway.

Accept failures and mistakes.

Let your team know that the work doesn’t have to be perfect. Your best employees are going to make critical mistakes.  And that’s okay, so long as they learn from them and adapt. Creating this mistake-tolerant environment may seem like it facilitates mediocrity, but it’s going to go a long way in making people feel comfortable to take charge if and when you’re gone—and you’ll need that if you want the business to survive.

Start taking vacations.

Finally, stop making excuses and take some vacations—preferably, several short ones to start, several times throughout the year. Think of these as trial runs to see whether your business can truly stand on its own in your absence.  And learning opportunities for all of you, if things go badly.

You may not be comfortable with the idea of the business running without you.  In an ideal world, it won’t have to until you want it to. But if you want to ensure your business is well-prepared in your absence, and give yourself some extra flexibility in the process, it’s essential you take these steps to build this entrepreneurial autonomy.