Turning Your Employees Into Owners
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I posted recently about planning for disaster and how to take care of our colleagues and their families in a crisis. Now I want to talk about another aspect of contingency planning—making sure our businesses survive.

One of the things we have to do as business owners is to think about “what-ifs.” For example, what if our office is destroyed in a storm or a fire?  What can we do now to minimize the damage and protect the business from disaster? The emergency plan that works for me won’t necessarily work well for you. Each company is different. You get to consider the advantages and disadvantages of all your options so you can draft a plan that will work for your particular situation.

Have Secondary Locations

Disasters, natural or otherwise, can wipe out a business. We had a client who went through Katrina and lost everything. A secondary location, complete with copies of all important records, can be critical.

Unfortunately, some disasters take out multiple locations. That actually happened to friends of mine. Their primary location was in New York and their secondary location was in New Jersey. Superstorm Sandy took out both.

Back Up Your Business in the Cloud

The cloud—distributed online storage—makes an attractive place to back up your data and IT systems in the cloud. The cloud is not vulnerable to local disasters, and you can access it from anywhere, so if your office is destroyed you can still get a hold of your information.

But I still like to have back-ups I can put my hands on. It is possible for a whole region to lose internet access (as happened to North Korea a while back). And of course, if your business depends upon specialized equipment, the cloud can’t help. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Rent an Emergency Office

If you save your data, but lose critical office equipment, you still have options. There are companies that specialize in providing office space in emergencies. One of these is Agility, which is owned by General Electric. Within twenty-four hours they can bring in mobile offices with work stations and Internet. They can make arrangements for portable toilets, fresh water, portable generators, and things like that. And it’s scalable—if you just need a few computers, they can do that, too.

Plan for the Expected—and the Unexpected

If my office is destroyed by an earthquake, it won’t be a complete surprise; I work in an earthquake zone.  Tornadoes are an obvious risk in Missouri, and Florida needs to watch out for hurricanes. It just makes sense to prepare for whatever kind of problem is most common in your area.

But unexpected disasters happen, too. We don’t usually think about major earthquakes in Wisconsin or tornadoes in Nevada, but it has happened. It’s important to be flexible enough to prepare for anything that can come down the pike.

Wrapping Up

I recognize that you could spend a lot of time thinking about all this stuff, but the reality is if you get even 80% of the way there you are better off than most. As long as it doesn’t make you over-confident or complacent, a bad plan is usually better than no plan at all.

The main thing is to think about options. We tell our kids to meet outside if there’s a fire and we need to apply those principles to our business world also. We need to have a plan on the shelf that’s been tested and that’s ready to roll.

Key Takeaways

  • Ask “what if” and prepare for worst-case scenarios.
  • Take advantage of options like cloud storage and emergency replacement office services.
  • Develop a flexible disaster plan that will work even if the completely unexpected happens.

Many CEOs try to hand-pick a successor based on some personal idea of who would be good for the job. Sometimes the choice works out well. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the truth is that great leaders are found, not anointed.

I recommend using the strategic planning process to identify the people with the will and ability to lead.  When you assign responsibility for different strategic goals, do not tap people based on their titles alone. Instead, give those who show potential the opportunity to prove themselves.

Letting potential leaders prove themselves also gives your candidate the chance to earn the trust and respect of their peers. Then, when you decide to give someone increased responsibility, the others won’t feel left out or passed over. They understand the decision and they can see that the person earned the new position.

If someone has the will but not the ability, then you can teach them how to do the job. If they have the ability but not the will, sometimes you can motivate them. But do not try to groom someone for promotion who shows neither the ability nor the will. Find another candidate to help you achieve the goals and objectives of your organization.

In the end, this gets back to something I’ve been saying, directly or indirectly, in most of my posts; great businesses rely on the talent, resources, and innovations of the whole team. Your job as CEO is to develop leadership wherever you find it and let the cream rise to the top.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a successor based on demonstrated will and ability.
  • Use the strategic planning process as a way to empower new leaders and let them prove themselves.
  • You can train the willing and you can motivate the able, but those with neither ability nor willingness you should let go.