27 January 2021

Will your business survive if the people who run it are no longer there?

Most businesses operate based on certain standard procedures that we call systems. Unfortunately, not all businesses have that in place; instead, they just let people run the show according to how they see fit. There’s no official procedure, there isn’t any sort of documentation, and the fate of the business essentially lies in the hands of people and the things that only they know. And that’s where it gets problematic.

You see, I’ve always believed that it should be the systems that run your business. Your people will then run those systems, and you as the business owner will lead those people. It’s incredibly important for you to have documented systems in place for the business to build a strong foundation.

The problem with people-dependent businesses

Imagine that you have a business that is run by people who have a unique way of running things. Over time, these people will have gotten a lot of knowledge about how your business works. They will know every bit of tiny detail about many aspects of your operation. Now imagine if those people were to leave your business in an abrupt manner. You will then be left with nothing because the knowledge and expertise will go with those people as they leave.

As you can imagine, that is not a very good and sustainable place to be in. You need to make sure that your business will continue running based on systems that have been put into place.

Do the work once, get paid back forever

My advice is to document every bit of the process down to keystroke-level.

The goal is to be able to put together a systems manual for every operational procedure in the business so that any person can come in and run it. This way, the knowledge is out of people’s heads and into those manuals.

Don’t get me wrong — we will always need people. Without people, those systems won’t run by themselves. But what is more important is that there should be a system in place that could be run no matter who are there to run it. That way, your business doesn’t depend on certain people.

For this to be effective, you will have to take everything down to the most minuscule level. That manual should be able to help any person carry out a certain task and no longer ask questions about it. It should be complete, comprehensive, and easy to understand no matter what your level of skill is. These systems manuals will be of no use if the people who understand them are the only people who understand them.

You can start by having everyone practice the art of screen recordings. It’s a very modern and effective way of documenting processes because you can see the actual steps being taken in a video that you can re-watch endlessly, and there could even be voiceovers to further guide the viewer on how to carry out those processes.

Those system manuals and video recordings will be worth their weight in gold in the future. It will give you that confidence and peace of mind knowing that your business is no longer dependent on people and what they know, but instead it will be standing on a strong foundation of clear-cut systems that anyone can run.

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