Is Your Business Built to Survive Your Absence?
You've started a new business and things are moving along swimmingly. You've hired some employees, sales are growing and you can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Then, suddenly, you have to be out of the office for two weeks after your foot is run over by a beer truck, or better yet, you actually decide to take a vacation -- that's one of the reasons you wanted to be your own boss, right?
What does your sudden departure do to your business? Do your daily processes and procedures run smoothly in your absence, or does everything fall apart? If you don't know the answer to these questions, you'd better find out fast.
With technology, automation and proper hiring, your business should be built so that it will function on its own if or when you need to leave daily operations. Take note that it's really important you begin building in these efficiencies as early as possible -- the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
Some might say that stepping away isn't possible in their particular business because it's so unique that they, as the owner, couldn't possibly be absent or give up control. My response? You already have a serious problem and, more than likely, it's you. For those who don't have egomaniacal complexes, here are some tips for building a business that runs itself.
1. It all starts at the beginning. As you are setting up your business model and beginning to execute or act on some initial processes, constantly think about how you might automate or construct them so that they can run effectively without your overbearing control. For example: Are you selling a consumer product that you intend to manually ship out? Look to outsource your warehouse, packing and shipping operations to one of dozens highly-qualified third-party logistics companies around the country. Automate the process and enable yourself to focus on growing your business, not maintaining it.
2. Automate all reporting. After years in business, particularly one with a sales team, reporting functions have a tendency to grow out of control and become unmanageable. To avoid this, set up reporting systems from the beginning so that they are automated and can be modified from one single point. Basically, do not send out reports for people to fill out then return back to you. Instead, create the report in a system such as Google Docs and send out the link to your team to complete. If done this way, the results are returned directly to you and held in a single place. You can then alter the report without having to resend it out to your team members.
3. Build it like you're 100 times bigger. One of the hardest but most important parts of process development, and therefore, process automation, is creating them so they function properly when your business grows considerably larger. For the automations to work properly and allow you to step away, your business must be able to grow into them without substantial oversight. As you visualize these new streamlined procedures, keep thinking about their potential effectiveness next month, or even next year, and adjust so that your company can easily grow into them.
4. Hire the right people. This topic could easily be an entire article, so for the sake of brevity, I'll be concise. You must put the proper self-sufficient team in place so that business goes on in your absence and you don't come back to a volcano that's ready to explode. I know, finding and hiring the right people is quite hard, but it's of paramount importance for your company to effectively function while you are recovering from your mishap with the beer truck.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.