Safeguarding Your Business:
The Crucial Need for Clear Strategic and Operational Instructions in Times of Unavailability or Crisis
By: Chris White
Recently I had outpatient surgery. Short as my visit to the hospital would be, they would have to put me under general anesthesia. In the week leading up to the surgery, I realized that, as the sole owner of several companies, I had not left anyone with specific instructions on what to do if I was “unavailable” for an extended period.
There is a complete succession plan if I die. But there needed to be a plan or instruction in place if I could not make decisions for the companies for an extended period of time.
Therefore, I spent half a day generating a list of instructions for two of my team leads should I not be able to make any decisions for an extended period. I then met with both of them and placed the instructions in a sealed envelope, only to be opened should the situation call for it.
Thankfully, as you can tell, the surgery went off with a hitch, and I am well on my road to recovery. Nonetheless, the situation caused me to reflect on what we, as business owners, should do to empower and equip our teams to effectively carry out the operations and strategy of our business in our absence. The following article is the result of that reflection.
In Part I, you will read about how we can address operational issues. And in Part II, you will read about ensuring your team understands your strategy for the business. So much of both sections rests on having a team you can trust and empower toward the future success of your company.
Part I: Operational Planning
Running a successful business requires dedication, hard work, and careful planning. As a business owner, focusing on day-to-day operations and growth strategies is natural. However, one critical aspect that often gets overlooked is preparing for unforeseen circumstances that could disrupt the smooth functioning of your business. In this part, we’ll explore the importance of having clear operational instructions in place for your team, especially in the event of your unavailability or, worst-case scenario, your untimely demise.
Begin by acknowledging that no one is immune to unexpected life events or emergencies. Whether it’s a personal health crisis, a family emergency, or any other unforeseen situation, there may come a time when you, as the business owner, cannot lead the company temporarily or permanently. Understanding the potential vulnerabilities is the first step toward creating a resilient business plan.
Mitigating Risks with Clear Instructions
Clear operational instructions ensure that your business can continue functioning efficiently even in your absence. It empowers your team to make informed decisions and perform essential tasks, reducing downtime and potential losses. By providing explicit guidelines, you safeguard your business and show your team that you care about the company’s future and their well-being.
Identifying Key Personnel and Responsibilities
Identify key personnel within your organization who can step up and assume leadership roles if needed. Clearly define their roles and responsibilities, and ensure they understand the decision-making authority granted to them during your unavailability. This will help maintain stability and prevent confusion among team members.
Documenting Critical Processes
Document all critical processes, from day-to-day operations to long-term strategic planning. Use clear and concise language to explain procedures, guidelines, and standard operating practices. Consider creating a centralized repository for this information to ensure easy access for everyone involved.
Communicate the Plan
Having a plan in place is not enough; communication is key. Ensure that your team members know the operational instructions and understand the importance of adhering to them during challenging times. Conduct regular training sessions and review meetings to reinforce the procedures and answer any questions they might have.
Review and Update Regularly
A well-crafted operational plan is a dynamic document; it needs to be updated regularly to adapt to your business’s changing needs and your team’s evolving capabilities. Review the instructions periodically and make adjustments as necessary to keep them relevant and effective.
In the unfortunate event of your death or permanent unavailability, having a comprehensive succession plan is crucial. My team at EQUES Law Group has worked with multiple business owners to create strategies to ensure their business assets are protected and transferred smoothly to the designated successors or beneficiaries.
Part II: Strategic Planning
Beyond day-to-day operations, it’s equally important to include instructions on the global strategic plan of your company. The global strategic plan outlines your business’s long-term vision, mission, and goals and why ensuring its continuity is essential for sustainable growth and success.
Upholding the Company’s Vision and Mission
Your company’s vision and mission represent the core values and aspirations that drive your business. In times of crisis, these guiding principles become even more critical as they provide a sense of purpose and direction. Clearly outline the company’s vision and mission in your operational instructions, ensuring that your team remains aligned with these principles and continues working towards the shared goals.
Identifying Key Objectives and Milestones
A well-structured global strategic plan includes specific objectives and milestones to achieve over time. These targets serve as measurable indicators of the company’s progress. Ensure that your team understands the significance of these objectives and how their roles contribute to attaining these milestones. This clarity will help maintain focus and foster a results-driven culture.
Empowering Decision-Making in Alignment with Strategy
By providing instructions on the global strategic plan, you empower your team to make decisions that align with the company’s long-term goals. Encourage them to refer to the strategic plan while dealing with challenges or new opportunities, helping them understand how each decision fits into the broader vision of the business.
Detailing Market and Competitor Analysis
Include an overview of market trends and competitor analysis in your strategic plan instructions. This information will help your team stay informed about the external factors that can impact the business and guide them in making informed decisions. Additionally, highlight ongoing research or planned initiatives to keep the company competitive.
Outlining Contingency Plans
While you may have outlined a robust global strategic plan, it’s essential to anticipate potential risks and develop contingency plans. Detail alternative approaches and potential adjustments to the strategic plan that can be implemented during unforeseen events or market shifts. This flexibility will enable your team to adapt swiftly and proactively to changing circumstances.
Training and Development for Successors
If there are designated successors to key leadership roles in your absence, provide them with proper training and development opportunities. Invest in potential leaders, ensuring they understand the intricacies of the global strategic plan and can confidently lead the business forward.
Part III: Takeaways
Preparing for the unexpected is not a pessimistic approach; it’s a responsible one. As a business owner, you must create a resilient business model that can weather uncertainties for your company, employees, and yourself. Clear operational instructions provide the necessary framework to keep your business running seamlessly when you can’t be there. By investing time and effort into this crucial aspect, you demonstrate your commitment to your business’s long-term success and your team’s well-being.
And including clear instructions on the global strategic plan is fundamental to preparing your business for any eventuality. It provides a roadmap for your team to navigate challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and steer the company toward long-term success. By fostering a culture of strategic thinking and aligning all team members with the broader vision and mission of the business, you not only protect your company but also lay the foundation for continued growth and prosperity. Remember, the strength of your business lies not just in your leadership but in the collective commitment and preparedness of your entire team.
Christopher M. White