Who Will Be in Charge If You’re Out of Commission?

Who Will Be in Charge If You’re Out of Commission?
If you train one of your trusted employees to run the business, maybe you’ll feel a little more comfortable taking a few days off to enjoy that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.

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There’s nothing insignificant about running a successful drain cleaning or pipeline inspection operation. You are aware of the day-to-day struggles of managing a crew of workers and office personnel, and keeping customers happy. But do your employees understand the business well enough to take over in your absence? 

If you get sick or injured and are forced to step down from your role as manager for an extended period of time, you need someone who is capable of running the business. A lot can happen in that time. Customers complain. Equipment breaks down. Employees argue. Who can handle all that stress if you’re not there? 

This was a real-life situation for Massachusetts-based L.R. Favreau Septic Service LLC located in Massachusetts. When owner Larry Favreau fell and broke his neck, the company fell into the hands of his family. Fortunately, his son, Brian, and daughter, Holly, were there to help. 

“We all went into soldier mode,” Brian says. “Holly handled all the office work and I handled all the field work. Superman didn’t fly in with his cape on. You just man up and get it done – lots of 16- and 18-hour days. You just do it.” 

Holly is still surprised how they were able to keep the business running without Dad. “Looking back, I wonder how we did it,” she says. “But in that kind of situation, you just do it. You just figure it out.” 

If you don’t have someone in mind whom you would trust to run your company, it’s time to make a list. You need to identify the person who will take the lead if you’re hurt or become ill in order to protect yourself and your business from falling apart, and you need to help your next-in-command learn how to run the business. 

Actions speak louder than words

Assertive. Ambitious. Proactive. The qualities of a leader are not inherent in everyone; some people must learn how to lead. And seeing someone else demonstrate these characteristics is the best way for them to learn. It’s your job to act like you would want a potential replacement to act.

Show the employee your step-by-step management processes, and urge them to take notes for future reference. An employee is not going to learn to lead your team by reading about it in a book. They need to see how you lead and what you do to ensure everything runs smoothly, and to understand what to do if something goes wrong.

Your top service technician has mastered the art of calming upset customers, and your office manager is a QuickBooks maven. But could either of them do each other’s job like you could do all the jobs in the company?    

Creating a leader is vital to the success of any business, but the process is not black and white. You need to show an employee how you interact with clients, and how you manage 15 different spreadsheets for employee schedules, service jobs, vehicle maintenance checks — and still find time to eat and sleep. 

According to an article from Steve Keating, certified marketing executive, taking an active leadership role should be second nature, not a chore. 

“Leaders who build leaders do not spend their time developing people,” Keating says on his website. “They have a totally different mindset, they invest their time developing people.”

If you want to mold someone who might have to step into your shoes, change the way you think about all your employees. Treat them as equals and potential managers. This will also put them at ease if the time comes when they need to call the shots. 

Hand over the reins

The only way you’ll know if one of your workers will be able to run the business is if you let them. So, take a deep breath, and let the prospective boss do his job. Give it a practice run while you’re there and available for questions. 

You’ll be right there when they talk to a client about televising a 1,000-foot pipeline inspection job or process a $10,000 invoice, right? So, if they make a mistake, it’s OK. You’ll be there to fix any major issues, but it’s better to make the mistake while you’re there rather than unavailable because you’re recovering from neck surgery and out of commission for three months. 

If you have a sudden accident or come down with a debilitating illness, you won’t have a choice about handing over the reins, so a trial run is your best bet. 

A trial run will allow you to work out the kinks and ensure your employee feels comfortable handling all aspects — good and bad — of running the business. 

While you are a business owner and leader by choice, it might be difficult for someone unfamiliar with those responsibilities to take on that role. Be considerate of the added challenges, such as a lack of managerial experience or the difficulty of suddenly being in charge of a group of your peers. 

Taking the time to teach an employee the ropes has many benefits. And just think, if you train one of your trusted employees to run the business, maybe you’ll feel a little more comfortable taking a few days off to enjoy that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. 

How have you prepared your next-in-command? Post a comment below or email kim.peterson@colepublishing.com.


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