Three things leaders can do to prepare for calamity

What would happen to your business if you were unable to continue?

David FullerMy father had a stroke last week. Thankfully, at almost 83, this is one of the first serious ailments he has had in an otherwise healthy life.

However, observing the debilitating effects and chaos that a serious illness can have on a person and family made me understand the need for leaders to have plans in place to be prepared for calamity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many more businesses and their leaders understanding the need for disaster planning due to outside influences.

Regrettably, many other leaders are not prepared for personal catastrophe.

A personal catastrophe could destroy an otherwise healthy organization in a relatively short period. Think about what would happen to your business if you or a close family member had a debilitating stroke, if you were in a car accident and hospitalized, or perhaps the victim of a serious crime.

Click here to downloadIn some cases, business owners have a team that would step up and cover. Often, however, businesses revolve around the owner. The owner is the hub and spoke of the business. Customer requests, staffing issues, and almost every decision need to pass through them for the company to move forward.

In organizations where the leader is the centre of activity, there can be serious challenges when they’re not available.

As leaders, when we create an organization that can’t function without us, we’re neglectful of our duty. So what can we do about it?

Here are three things you need to do to prepare for calamity:

Create standard operating procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are processes we follow to ensure the company gets consistent results every time a job is completed.

Recently I worked with an information technology services company out of New Jersey that was looking to grow.

It was determined that one of the things holding the company back was that many of the clients were handled haphazardly by the technicians.

The head technician was responsible for ensuring the gold standard was kept.

Unfortunately, the head tech couldn’t do his job because he was constantly interrupted by junior technicians who didn’t understand how to do their jobs and get consistent results.

Once we documented the procedures necessary, the stress level and the interruptions dropped. What’s more, if anything happened to the head technician, the operation would be able to run smoothly without him for some time.

Having written detailed instructions on what should take place in certain situations – including disaster – reduces your need to worry when unexpected events happen.

Have plans for delegating authority

Early in my career I worked for one of my mentors, Louis Matte. He opened a gas station and feed store. The business was open 24/7 and had a considerable number of workers.

To determine who was in charge on any given shift, Louis created a pecking order. The higher you were on the list, the more responsibility you had. The person with the highest level of responsibility on any given shift could make the decisions.

A team wants to know who can make the decisions if their leader can’t show up for days or weeks. Delegating this authority and making it clear will allow your team to move forward if you’re not there. It also empowers emerging leaders to step up in times of disorganization.

Ensure your business is viable or profitable

It’s one thing to have a business that runs without you. It’s another to have a business that can be profitable without the owner.

While leaders in larger organizations might not have to worry so much about this, there are some other key performance indicators that their departments need to hit. Understanding how we measure and achieve success needs to be communicated to our support team with a clarity that demonstrates the importance of achieving established goals.

When our organization’s success is wholly dependent on our ability to keep focused, we have a problem that’s compounded if we can’t drive those needed results.

More advice on running your business

Getting your key staff engaged in ensuring your profitability or viability is paramount in allowing you and your company to survive catastrophic events.

We can never know what will happen in the future. We can hope that nothing unfortunate befalls us, our key team members or our families. Unfortunately, calamity can strike when we least expect it.

I’m sure my father never woke up thinking that the left side of his body might not work in a few hours.

However, being prepared for disastrous situations with some simple plans can ensure your company can succeed without you in times of trouble.

With a plan in place, your team will appreciate that you care enough about them to prepare for when you might not be readily available.

And everyone will sleep better.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in Pivotleader Inc. Questions? Email Dave@pivotleader.com. For interview requests, click here.


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