While it may be somewhat uncomfortable, an essential question to ask is who or what could dramatically impact the survival of your business?
Who has the gun that could shoot you down? Or less dramatically, who could pull the rug out from under you?
If you’ve built a business that relies totally on Google sending you traffic, then in your case, Google has the gun. A change to their algorithm or business model and your leads might disappear.
If you do all your work with one customer, that customer has the gun. If they change suppliers, where will it leave you?
Leaving survival in the hands of others equates to forfeiting control and while large organisations can generally live through all sorts of damage, in this instance there is no denying that us little guys are more vulnerable.
But thankfully we have the agility to take quick, decisive action.
I had a ‘man with the gun’ moment a few years back when our then-outsourced web development team announced they were relocating from Sydney to San Francisco and were unable to support us any longer. We had three weeks notice before they turned off our website (and thereby over 90 per cent of my revenue) and it was terrifying.
In tech circles, this ‘man with the gun’ concept is known as the ‘single point of failure’, the point at which were one part of a system to fail, the entire system would grind to a halt. I’m feeling a bit queasy now. I’ll get off this topic and rather than say any more will show you a list of things you may like to consider.
● Who controls your website or core-technology platform?
● Could the departure of one person cause BIG problems?
● Are you too reliant on any particular customer or supplier?
● Does your survival rely on another business?
● Do you have a business partner who is showing signs of being unreliable or wobbly?
● Is your data safe?
● Are your insurances sufficient?
As unpleasant as it may be, running through a few disaster scenarios can help you manage any real-life crises. Most commonly the one with the gun is YOU. Many small businesses come grinding to a halt the moment you do.
Now there’s a topic to take a closer look at.
What to do when or if you’re not around
One of the appeals of running your own show is that it sits comfortably alongside a chosen lifestyle and this inevitably means you’ll want to create a business that’s flexible enough to accommodate a range of planned or unplanned changes.
Maybe you need to spend time caring for a loved one, or look after a newborn baby, or perhaps you’d like an extended vacation. Perhaps you are unwell and unexpectedly out of action. Whatever the reason, you’re leaving the flight deck for a while and we want this baby to stay in the air!
Here’s what you need to do.
Rely on your systems and processes
You’ve spent time documenting tasks, now is the time to put them to good use. Start by getting the basics covered. Who’s going to handle the phones and emails? Voicemail and autoresponders are there for a reason remember.
At the first sign that you may be disappearing for a while, let those around you know all about it and be sure to give their reaction and your response some thought before you make any announcements.
‘I know you’re going to be concerned by XYZ, here’s how we’re going to handle it . . .’
Go through all the likely scenarios
When you sit down and pull apart all the ramifications of your absence, the likelihood is it won’t be as catastrophic as you imagine. In reality most situations can be handled and you’ll be amazed just how readily those around you are willing and able to jump in and help.
Co-opt, don’t compete
In the old days, people would keep their distance from those in the same field. ‘Don’t share ideas or resources with competitors, they may get ahead of you!’ These days this attitude is simply out of touch.
If you’ve got alliances with those in your industry, they may very well be able to handle some clients on your behalf while you’re out of the frame, and vice versa.
Make full use of technology
Automation software, video conferencing, document sharing and the list goes on. We’re surrounded by tools to keep the impact of our disappearance to a minimum so make use of them. In an ideal world you will have prepared your business in advance to enable you to step away for a period, rather than responding to a crisis.
But sometimes in life, a swift shove can be the fastest way to get things done. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. I’ve lost count of the number of entrepreneurs I’ve known who have come back from an extended break with a more streamlined, efficient and sustainable business.
Robert Gerrish is the founder of Flying Solo, author of The 1 - Minute Commute and host of the Rekindle podcast. Read more of his work at www.robertgerrish.com