While Charles continues his recovery, RiskSmart Tips would like to thank several colleagues for volunteering to contribute their professional views, particularly in the areas of avoiding, planning for, and managing business risk.  This month’s tip has been authored by Mike Van Horn of The Business Group.

Can Your Business Run Without You?

If all decisions and customer interactions run through you, the answer is “no.”  This is one of the greatest barriers to growth and viability.

“I love working in my business!” you say.  “Why would I want it to run without me?”

Three primary reasons:

  • One, if you are incapacitated, as has been the case with Charles Wilson recently;
  • Two, if you’d like to take a vacation without shutting down;
  • And three, if you are enmeshed in day-to-day operations, you have little bandwidth for the strategic focus needed for growth, innovation, and greater profitability.  This is true whether you are a one-person operation or have a bunch of employees.

The keys to this are Help, Systems, and Management Style.  Consider these questions:

  • What help (employees, contractors, outside professionals) do you need to cover your absence—for any of the above reasons—and to allow you to focus on strategic growth and profitability?  Write the job description of the person(s) who could best free you up and back you up.  (May not be the same person.)
  • What systems do you need to get key info and knowledge out of your head, so that your help can back you up and be the most productive?  Not just packaged systems, but ways of doing things consistently that you can hand off to others.  (Or perhaps they create the systems for you.)
  • How do you need to upgrade your own management style in order to best utilize your help and your systems?

This last one is by far the greatest challenge, especially for an owner who is accustomed to doing it all.  “Nobody can do this as well as I can.”  “I can’t trust others with these key decisions.”  “How could I justify paying somebody else when I can do it myself?”  These often-unspoken attitudes increase the risks mentioned above and guarantee that you stay small—and without back up.

To make this shift, answer these questions: 

  • What must you get off your plate to free you up?  Make a list of the small tasks that can easily be delegated to a clerical (or outsourced) person.
  • As you grow, can you consider an office manager type of assistant to allow you to focus on the most important things for you to do to grow?
  • How can you provide the training, systems, equipment, and oversight to make this person the most productive?
  • How can you keep yourself out of the way, so they can do the job you hired them for?  This takes practice!

To sum up:

The more you can let go, the bigger you can grow.  And the more time away you get.

On the other hand, the more you hold tight, the more you work nights.

And the changes you make to free yourself up for growth also give you the backup and support you need if you are out due to illness or other reasons.

One final note:  If your business cannot run without you, you can never sell it.


Mike Van Horn, The Business Group, advises business owners how to grow to the size and profitability they want, without the business swallowing their lives.

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