“The strange thing is that everyday, we see people dying – but don’t actually believe we will.” – Anonymous
We read about it in the newspapers. We hear it on the news. We see it on television. Sudden, unexpected death. Caused by accidents, disasters, and disease.
Yet until it strikes close to home, we tend to filter it out through a “can’t happen to us” filter, which keeps uncomfortable news at arms’ length. But closing your eyes and burying your head in the sand like an ostrich is not always a good business strategy!
So, as uncomfortable as it may be, I’m going to talk today about how to disaster-proof your online business.
You have worked hard building it. You have overcome incredible hurdles and challenges along the way. You took all this trouble hoping to create something that will last, thrive and spin off profits for a long time to come. Maybe fund your retirement. Even leave a legacy or annuity to your heirs.
But what if something went wrong all of a sudden – and no one else knows what to do?
It’s time to re-structure things right now in a way that will leave your business in a shape and position to continue to chug along – even if you are not around to manage it actively as before. Let’s discuss this broadly under four categories:
Like any other offline business, your Internet based enterprise has assets. Just as a store on High Street has a building, inventory, furniture, equipment and more, your website based business has assets that need to be maintained and protected.
And there are many more things that you’ll identify when you sit down to list them. Assets that you have simply taken for granted all along, but that someone new to your business won’t even understand, appreciate or value correctly – unless you tell them.
This is an even more complex and critical area, because operations are at the core of your online business activities and cannot be ignored for a long time without costing you heavily. On the one hand, you have operations that serve your clients and customers. On the other hand, there are operations that run your business.
Customer focused operations include marketing, delivering products as promised and managing customer service issues. With smart planning and structure, you could have outsourced workers and automation handle most of these steps – but still you need to have them documented, and made available to a successor or care-taker, so that your business can be managed even without you at the helm.
Business-centric operations are those where you deal with suppliers or vendors, pay your providers for services, and manage employees or outsourced workers for whatever part they play in your enterprise. These are often set up on automated billing arrangements through your credit card or other financing systems. This means unless you are careful about documenting these processes, your business could end up paying out cash without any way of bringing it back in.
The assets of your business are not always tangible. Some of the most precious are intangible, like people in your network – your advisers and mentors, clients and customers, fans and evangelists, suppliers and affiliate partners.
And depending upon how actively and personally you engage with this network, it may be vital to have someone take up the reins immediately in case you are disabled, and continue to nurture these connections and keep them alive.
That’s why you should clearly and explicitly delineate the members in the network, the nature of your connection with them, and the ideal channels to reach them. That way, someone who steps anew into your business will have a clue about how to proceed!
If you intend that your business be run along the same (or similar) lines as you’ve been building and managing it, then it is your added responsibility to detail everything about it for a successor to learn and follow.
Do you have a written business plan that is handy for reference? More importantly, do you have your dreams and goals for your business in the future documented in a way that someone else can know what you wanted to do with it?
Have you spoken about this to others and explained your philosophy in running your online business, your ambitions and targets, your ultimate dream for it?
If not, how will they know?
The key to a smooth transition, then, lies in how well you have documented this material, and how you have done it. Your choice will depend upon uniquely personal factors, and there is no single “best way” to do it.
Also, this is not a once-off thing. As your business grows and evolves, things will change and your documentation will have to reflect these modifications. So keep this in mind while deciding about creating your plan, and do it in a way that is flexible and can be frequently updated.
The simplest way may be to write down things in a notebook and keep it handy for updates and revisions. You could also do this using a computer program or Word document, but be sure to print out backup hard copies and keep them somewhere safe. Or choose any other recording method you like – an audio message, a video presentation, a typed document.
While recording the information, be sure you are providing enough detail for the person who accesses it to understand what to do. Using technical jargon and cryptic messages won’t help if whoever is taking over doesn’t know what steps to take next based upon it.
If you create a fantastic document explaining everything about running your business, but no one knows you’ve done it (and worse, cannot find it easily), then all is for naught. So make sure that your near and dear ones are aware of your business resource document and how to access it in case you are not in a condition to run your business.
Let me let you into a startling secret. I’ve been writing about this, and thinking about this, for almost three years. Even wrote a short manual (which I had planned to update with some spreadsheets and templates, before selling for $67). And I even carefully analyzed how long it would take to create and maintain a record like this – it’s only three hours every YEAR!
But until today, I hadn’t made a serious attempt to do it myself!
What changed? Well, disaster struck closer to home than ever before – and brought home with shocking harshness the undeniable reality that we are all mortal, and that our life hangs by a thread. Random events, unpredictable sequences and sheer chance can end it in a heartbeat.
It’s up to us to be prepared for when disaster strikes.
So I’m going to start work on creating a “Business Survivial Toolkit”. And to encourage you to do it too, I’m going to give away for FREE the $67 manual, which has a comprehensive list of elements in your business that you have to record and document. You can pick it up from this link:
Now you know what to do. The big question is: Will you do it?
Make a commitment by leaving a comment below. And let’s discuss how to disaster-proof our business in an uncertain world.
And learn how to build a better blog.