Recently I was in San Diego for a few days of business. By far the most memorable business conversation was with an entrepreneur who has had many years of success in his business. Our conversation though, focused on a time period of the last two years during which he has been trying to “resurrect” his business after going through a downturn.
Prior to the downturn, he had multiple locations in the USA, including a product warehouse over in Texas. While his focus had shifted and was in particular now focused on international markets, something significant happened in Texas that contributed to the downturn, although of course he wasn’t aware of it at the time.
Specifically, a very key staff person left the company on maternity leave. This person had been doing a ton of business acquisition, particularly sales and bookings of upcoming events. The work she did was like clockwork and it was part of the reason why this entrepreneur had so much work booked for multiple months out, for he and his team. He was moving at such a fast pace though, that he neglected to properly review the duties and function of this key staff person in Texas and was not aware of the major impact her loss would have on the company – he did not move quickly enough to replace her with the right person.
It was in the fall of a couple of years ago that he was looking ahead into the winter season and particularly the New Year ahead, and noticed much fewer sales and less work booked for the company and his North American team. He panicked when he realized that there was almost no revenue coming and he had to move swiftly to lay off other team members and adjust some things, including closing down one of the other North American offices.
This all could have been prevented, if the entrepreneur had been equipped with a fuller understanding as to how critical this particular staff person was in the operation. He was so focused on the international markets and he just took it for granted that the volume of work in North America would always be there as it always had, and had neglected to understand what the success of the company in the previous few years was attributed to – yes, a lot of it revolved around this particular individual’s success in Texas.
How aware are you as to the current functionality of your team members, particularly those responsible for business acquisition? Do you have mechanisms in place to be anticipating well in advance, upcoming work or lack thereof? What might you be taking for granted today, that is worth a pause and reflect?
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Reflect on your business and the critical functions. What critical functions might you not be entirely “up to speed” on where you may not fully be appreciating or understanding how necessary business continuity is with that particular function or functions?
- If you identify any, take the time needed to make sure that whoever has lead accountability for that part of the business is completely informed and has a plan in place for business continuity in the event of any number of disruptions including a staff departure.
- Where has your primary focus been over the last six months, and decide if there is an area of the business that you are just assuming is “humming along” but may benefit from a closer look, rather than taking for granted that it’s “all good?” Remember to review your data on a regular basis to know where you may need to focus.
Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and workplace mental health.
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