Visit this quick YouTube link to my 2-Minute Business Insight then read on!
So let me start out with a question. Would you intentionally put your business in serious danger? “Of course not!” you reply. “Who would?” But the truth is that the majority of business owners I work with have done exactly that by keeping their business plan and playbook in their head.
When things are going well and you are healthy, that is not a problem. You are a good manager. You know what you are doing. You get input when you need it, but it’s YOUR company and you make the key decisions. Now, imagine you are struggling, not feeling good about the business or its future. (It almost always happened at some point.) Others who know you notice gradual changes in behavior. They are concerned because you’re not acting like the take-charge person they once knew. And frankly, they don’t see things as negatively as you see them. But they notice the changes in you and that creates lots more fear in them. You are certain everything in your world is collapsing, and may be considering drastic measures to save the business. Your management team and your spouse, who have always relied on your business judgment, have difficulty reconciling their view of the business situation with your behavior. They start to suspect that you are withholding critical information from them. And that is the problem: secrets. In a difficult business situation, keeping vital information away from key staff and from your spouse sets you up for turning a business problem into a crisis. This can happen in several ways that I have experienced:
- When key employees do not have a full picture, they may make small decisions in their management areas that end up making the underlying business problem worse.
- The stress of the business problem can get carried into your marriage creating a whole new level of problems for you to deal with.
- Carrying the weight all by yourself can have serious impact on your physical and emotional health.
Eventually a relentless fear drives you right into the hospital after a complete meltdown. Recuperation will take time, possibly 6 months to a year or more. What does your spouse do? What does your management team do? What would you want them to do? Here is what I recommend.
- In any business problem situation, share as much information as you can with your key staff. You will be lowering their fear and stress, not raising it.
- Have a couple of people with whom you can speak totally openly. These may include your spouse, one or more of your key managers, or a business advisor. These people will help you work things out in your own head and maintain confidentiality.
- Put a plan in place for what your business should do should you die or become incapacitated. Most business owners have a will that specifies to whom financial assets should go, but few have what I call a Letter of Guidance for the management of the company. This is especially important when your incapacitation is temporary and you intend to return to the business after some period of time. People have to know what you want them to do.
- Document everything that you are unwilling, for whatever reasons, to tell your employees. If something happens to you, whoever takes over running your company needs to have the total picture.
Following these simple steps can save your company. In my world of navigating business problems for owners, the value of guidance is priceless. Check out our RESOURCES section, where you’ll find a sample Letter of Guidance to download. Or visit this quick YouTube link to my 2-Minute Business Insight.