3 Tips for Preparing Your Small Business for the Unexpected

Many small businesses operate in a reactive, rather than proactive, mode. Business owners spend so much time putting out fires that setting aside resources to prepare for future fires is usually not an option, but a necessity if you want to be able to refocus your business and achieve greater success. Here are three tips that will help prepare your small business for the unexpected.

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow@VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

3 Tips for Preparing Your Small Business for the Unexpected

Unfortunately, when a business owner is always in “firefighter” mode, it’s impossible to work hard on winning new clients or tackling more lucrative projects. By working with your team to put an infrastructure in place to deal with future issues, you’ll have help in dealing with the issues that emerge each day. Once your team is able to respond to problems without escalating it to you, you’ll be able to gradually shift your focus to building your company. Here are three tips on how you can make that happen.

Document Processes

As your business’s owner, you likely have a great deal of knowledge that you haven’t shared with your team. They turn to you to resolve various issues, then resume their daily tasks while you work things out. Each new emergency needs immediate attention, so there’s no time to train someone else on how to handle it.

On a sheet of paper, scribble down the different fires you’re asked to put out during the day. As time frees up later, quickly document the process you underwent to resolve each of them. Once you have your documentation in place, meet with your team to assign different team members to handle various issues the next time they arise. Promise to be available if they need you, but step away and trust your team members to take care of things.

Choose an Apprentice

Another option for busy professionals is to choose a trusted team member to serve as an apprentice. Ask that team member to stay close by and note how you handle various issues throughout the day. Gradually you can turn tasks over to that apprentice. You may even designate different employees to learn different tasks and ask them to observe with the intention of eventually taking them over.

Delegate Selectively

Freeing up time for yourself doesn’t mean you have to delegate everything to team members. Choose those items you enjoy doing and delegate the rest. If an employee possesses talents you don’t, train that employee to take over something you feel he might do a better job at than you.

It’s also important to look around and make sure your lack of delegation isn’t an issue of being surrounded by inadequate team members. Poor hiring decisions can haunt a business owner for years, forcing him to continue to bear the brunt of the work while ill-fitting employees sit idly by, collecting a paycheck.

On a regular basis, evaluate your infrastructure and take a close look at the workload. If your team is already overloaded, consider outsourcing some of the more mundane tasks to free up in-house workers to deal with pressing issues on a daily basis. An employee who exists solely to do data entry could be moved into a more challenging position while data entry is outsourced. In-house employees can often be trusted to handle such sensitive issues as client relations and late payments.

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