Is your company prepared for your potential absence? What would happen if you were suddenly unable to perform your duties as a leader? Would someone else be able to step in and perform your role? What about if you decided to go on vacation for a few weeks? Would the company continue to run as it’s supposed to, or would things begin to fall apart?
Too many tech company founders and leaders have no plan for their own absence. Instead, they take on as much work and as much responsibility as they can themselves, as if they’re going to work in this position forever, with no breaks.
If you want your company to have a better chance of success without you (whether you leave permanently or temporarily), it’s important to prepare your business for your absence.
Establishing a Plan for Yourself
First, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for your own interests. If you’re unable to work at this company, do you have a backup plan for yourself?
One of the best options is to purchase long-term disability insurance. Long-term disability insurance policies are designed to protect you in case you’re ever in a position where you’re unable to work; if you’re hurt in an accident or if you develop a chronic condition, your insurance policy will activate and provide you with the income you need to keep going.
It’s also a good idea to keep your wealth invested in a wide variety of assets, including stocks, bonds, real estate, and exchange traded funds (ETFs) from various sectors. This way, you’ll be able to establish a secondary stream of income for yourself, and have a financial cushion in case the business is no longer a reliable source of revenue.
One of the most important steps to take for your business is to cross-train your partners and employees. Cross-training is a system of training other people on skills and responsibilities they might not ordinarily do—but can take on if needed. For example, let’s say your daily responsibilities can be broken down into four main types of tasks. These tasks aren’t currently handled by anyone else in your company, and nobody knows how you approach them.
Cross-training would encourage you to teach other people in your company how to handle each of these four tasks in your absence; for example, you could teach four different people one task each, or you could designate a single person to take over for you in your absence, and teach them how to accomplish all four types of tasks.
In any case, you’ll need to spend time guiding these people on how to handle your work responsibilities. In addition, it’s a good idea to document everything you do. Write up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your daily responsibilities, so the people replacing you or filling in for you have a solid resource they can reference as they adapt to their new role.
While you’re at it, consider introducing cross-training to the rest of your organization. Talk to other leaders in your company about the importance of cross-training other people on their responsibilities, and consider encouraging leaders in different departments to train each other.
Forming a Succession Plan
Next, consider writing out a formal succession plan. If you decide to leave the business, or if you’re suddenly unable to fulfill your responsibilities, the succession plan will become instrumental in determining what happens next. Oftentimes, business leaders use a succession plan to name an individual successor—someone to take over the company and carry on their core responsibilities. You may also choose to provide instructions on how to distribute ownership of the company, or have wishes for how the company should develop in the future.
Going on Vacation
If you’re interested in knowing how the company would run without you, consider going on an extended vacation as a kind of trial run. Turn off your phone, and appoint your successor (or other people you trust) to take over your responsibilities temporarily. Hopefully, your past training and current documentation will be enough to enable your organization to run smoothly in your absence. Upon your return, you’ll likely learn about everything that went wrong—and all the little things that need corrected in your plan.
It’s almost impossible to fully prepare a business for your absence proactively; there are too many variables to account for, and too many things that can go wrong along the way. However, spending time and effort documenting and teaching your responsibilities to other people in your organization can greatly increase its chances of success if you ever leave, for any reason. Work proactively to give your business the greatest possible odds of survival.