Can Your Business Live Without You?

Entrepreneurs who have difficulty answering this question may be facing a planning issue that involves far more than arranging their time off.

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By Beth Miller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Can you take a vacation without a laptop or tablet? If you answered no to this question then you might be facing one or two of the following scenarios:

You believe that your role is to make all the important decisions and solve the all significant problems. And you don't have the right team in place to keep the business on course in your absence.

Related: Common Vacation Mistakes Managers Make (Infographic)

The more important longer-term issue (aside from preparing your team for your absence) is recognizing the need for a succession plan. Business owners should not delay and push off this decision. Down the road, potential purchasers of the company will look for a strong management team to be in place.

When my husband and I were managing our consulting business in the 1990s, we worried each time we took a vacation about what we'd come back to. We didn't have the luxury while traveling of tapping into the high-speed Internet and wireless connections that exist today. If we did, we would have been forever checking our email and never turning off our phones. Instead we never truly relaxed.

Meanwhile any business owner experiencing any signs of a situation like this should start by making it a strategic goal to attract and retain top talent, so that the company becomes an employer of choice and job candidates are lining up to join the company. Then take the following five steps to set things in motion for the company's leadership over the long term.

Related: Downton Abbey: Lord Grantham's 5 Worst Management Mistakes

1. Assess yourself as a leader.

One of the main roles of a leader is to develop the talents of those around him or her and prepare them for the future of the business. How are you building your team's talent? What tasks are you currently handling that you need to delegate but have not?

Are you developing yourself as a leader? Your employees look to you first and it's vital that you model the very behavior that you expect staff members to deliver.

2. Fully evaluate the management team.

Which people on your team can you fully count on to make decisions and solve problems in your absence? Use an assessment tool to evaluate the skills and behaviors of managers. This will help you as the business owner or president to identify any gaps on your management team.

No leadership team is perfect. As a business owner you need to identify any shortcomings. What skills or are missing or need improvement before you have the confidence that you can check out for more than a couple of days?

What are you doing that you can start delegating? And what can't you delegate or don't want to delegate?

3. Decide on a plan for improvement.

Which members of your staff can be developed to meet the current and future leadership needs of the organization? Who has the potential to step in your stead should you become ill, disabled or die in an accident? What do members of your team need to learn before you can trust that all things will run smoothly in such circumstances and will continue along a path according to your vision?

4. Make needed changes.

One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs and small business owners might face is letting go of any managers who've stuck it out with them over the years. This might include employees who joined the company early on and who've been by their side through the good, the bad and the ugly.

The problem is that these people might be loyal but they may have become ineffective for some reason and the company has outgrown them. Be courageous and make that difficult decision.

5. Conduct assessments of the entire organization.

It isn't enough to fine-tune the management team. Be sure that employees at all levels can be evaluated by providing managers with the appropriate training and tools to effectively assess them.

Related: How a Family-Owned Firm Can Beat the Odds and Pivot

Beth Miller

Leadership Development Advisor, Speaker, Executive Coach

Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and founder of Executive Velocity Inc., a boutique firm offering talent management and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for small business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?

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