How to Keep the Office Running When Life Knocks You Off Your Feet
Regardless of what happened or why, you and I both know it’s imperative to stay operational and competitive when you can’t be in the office. For that reason, it’s so important to have at the ready an out-of-office backup plan.
To help you prepare for such an instance, I recommend creating a backup plan by putting the following into effect:
- Have Backup Support or Team Members to Fill in the Gaps
Even if we’re working alone, as many small business owners or entrepreneurs do, we have to have some type of backup support or team. This support doesn’t necessarily need to be kept “in-house” either. It could, instead, be accessible from anywhere and be available at any time.
Here are few places to look when sourcing your backup team:
- Virtual assistants: These days you can find professional staffing services that offer a lower cost of support while also providing a (usually) high level of expert skills and knowledge – all online. I recommend AssistU or IVAA.
- Online outsourcing sites: There are a multitude of freelancers out there ready to take on work at fairly reasonable rates and with good turnaround time. If you’re looking for freelancers with a wide breadth of skills and knowledge, try 99Designs, Upwork (formerly eLance-oDesk), or Fiverr.
- Referrals: This is still one of the best ways to obtain reliable sources of support and staffing. You can gather referrals by reaching out to friends or colleagues, using social media connections and relationships, or asking for recommendations in networking groups.
- Recruitment Firms: If you are looking to hire a long term staff person, consider investing in the assistance of a recruitment firm. Such firms know the local hiring “scene” and how to seek out and find the best applicants for your position(s). What this means is that the recruitment firm you work with should have expertise, connections and a good applicant pool for the type of industry that you work within and serve. Ask fellow business owners for recommendations or do online research to find those that may be just right for your needs.
- Hire an Authority Figure to Handle Key Business Functions
In addition to a support team, it’s also important to have an authority figure in place during your absence. This could be your assistant or office manager, but it needs to be someone who can handle numerous tasks with little or no direction, and someone in whom you have full trust and confidence to handle all matters within the company.
This person’s responsibilities could range from delegating work to scheduling client interactions and from payment processing to banking and legal matters.
- Document Processes and Procedures
If you want to keep operating processes running smoothly in your absence, then key functions and procedures need to be clearly and accessibly documented and shared with the team. Take the following steps to get these documents in place:
Identify priority procedures: This is your time to identify what is important to “keep the lights on” for your business. Is it your payment processing, scheduling, customer relationship management, order fulfillment or sales? These procedures should be the first on the list to document.
Write out all the steps it will take to complete the project: This can be done via a Word document, which you can enhance with screenshots to help the team see exactly what needs to be done.
Don’t like to write? Record processes with your smartphone, dictating each task as you do it, and then send the recording to a transcriptionist. Or, invest in a program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which will allow you to dictate, format, edit and save directly to a file. You can also enhance the process and cut down on steps by taking videos that go through the project step by step.
Storing your documents: Store the process document, audio or video in a place that can be easily accessible by team members. Consider using cloud storage such as Amazon S3 or a common file-sharing site such as Google Drive or application such as Dropbox.
- Put a Fully Functional Project Management System Into Place
Now that you have the team in place and the supporting documentation ready for them to use, you’ll need to make sure all projects stay on track. This is where a project management system comes into play.
There are some exceptionally good and reasonably priced cloud-based services that allow multiple users to have easy access to files, notes, and conversations about a project, whether they are in your office or working remotely.
Here are some programs to consider:
- Payments: QuickBooks, PayPal, Freshbooks
- Scheduling/Meetings: ScheduleOnce, Instant Teleseminar, Google Hangouts
- CRM: Insightly, Contactually, Highrise
- Order Fulfillment/eCommerce: 1ShoppingCart, Volusion, Bigcommerce
- Sales: Salesforce, PipeDrive, Base
- Integrated, Multi-Function Systems: Infusionsoft, Hubspot
I am so glad I have a backup system in place, and if you ever need to have surgery or be out of the office for an extended period of time either for business or personal reasons, you will be relieved, too. Not sure where to start with your backup plan? Together, we can discuss some out-of-office options for you to consider. Please feel free to reach out.