Can Your Company Function Without You?

There are benefits to maintaining a small operation, but be leery of having a business that has a single point of failure

Can Your Company Function Without You?

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For the first few years you were in business, you may have done it all. You were the business. The success or failure depended 100% on the effort and abilities of one person: you. 

Maybe your business is still run that way and that’s the way you prefer it. Sure, if you’re out of commission, there’s no one to answer the phones, schedule jobs, or do the work. But with a one-person team, there are also no hiring struggles, no human resources nightmares, no salaries to pay and no worrying about whether things are getting done the way you want them done. 

While there are definitely some benefits to staying small, have you considered the downside to having a business with a single point of failure? 

We recently had a client — the owner of a multimillion-dollar service business — go through a heart procedure on the same day he lost his dad. Another client of ours was diagnosed with cancer last year. 

Thankfully, the first business owner had grown his business to a point and structured it in a way that it was fully operational without him. He was able to take time away from work without worrying about whether or not his business would suffer.

The second business owner was lucky to have several companies in his area rally together to cover his customer base and help him through the season. If they hadn’t been there for him, he would have lost his business. 

What would happen to your business if you hit a rough patch? What would happen to your business if something happened to you? Would you lose everything you’ve worked so hard for?

It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but it’s something every business owner needs to think about and plan for. The idea is not that you need to have a business with a gazillion trucks, but rather that you need to build a business that doesn’t need you.

How exactly do you do that? Here are a few tips:

No. 1 Hire smart

No one in any industry ever said identifying, hiring, onboarding and retaining employees is easy. But it is necessary, especially if you want your business to be able to function without you. If you’re doing it all, when you’re out of commission, nothing will get done. 

You don’t have to go out and hire someone for every position all at once. You can start small. Identify the key things that have to happen daily to make your business a success, and hire for those roles. If you don’t know how to do this, read The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. 

Do you need someone who can answer the phones and schedule appointments? Do you need a helper who can do the jobs when you can’t? Hire to fill those spots first, nail the onboarding and training process, and work on providing a rewarding career so the employees you invest in will invest in you.

No. 2 Delegate

The only way your employees can keep the business running without you is if you trust them enough to share key tasks and plans with them. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your business and what it takes to keep it operating, day in and day out. Delegate some of the key tasks to them, give them detailed instructions and see how they do.

Not only will this foster a sense of ownership in your employees and allow you to correct and guide them as they learn, but it will also free up some of your time once they get the hang of it. And if there does come a day where you can’t make it in for some reason, they’ll know just what to do.

No. 3 Create standard operating procedures

Standard operating procedures — or SOPs — make a lot of business owners cringe for one main reason: Documenting them takes time. There’s no way around that, but here’s the thing: Writing SOPs is 100% worth the time and effort. 

When you have well-written SOPs for each and every task and role in your business, anyone should be able to do the work. Obviously we’re not talking about a complicated estimate or event service that only an experienced PRO could and should do. We’re talking about the things you do, day in and day out, to keep the business running. If you weren’t in the office, would anyone know what to do that day, week or month? SOPs can help.

No. 4 Structure your business

Yes, you’re the heart and soul of your business, but you need to know you can step away without worry. That means you have to structure your business so it will operate like a well-oiled machine, even without you. 

Can minor decisions be made without you or do you have to approve every little thing? Are there other people in your company who employees can go to when they need help with human resources issues, problem-solving or anything else related to their work?

Put people in place who know the ins and outs just as well as you do so they can keep things moving when you’re away. If you put the right people in the right roles and give them more responsibility ahead of time, when something does happen, it won’t be their first rodeo. They’ll already largely know how to keep things smooth sailing without you, and you can have peace of mind when you need it most.

Doing the work to secure your legacy

Here’s the thing: You’ve poured endless amounts of blood, sweat and tears into your business. You’ve worked hard to build your reputation and your client base and create a business you can be proud of. Don’t leave the survival of everything you’ve worked for up to luck or chance. 

Make sure your business continues to thrive even when you need to step away, by hiring, delegating, creating SOPs and structuring your business wisely. It’s your legacy. Make sure it’s worth something without you.

About the authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the "Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show," a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue-collar dream, and the co-authors of the book Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. They're also co-creators of the award-winning app Closing Commander, which helps contractors close more estimates effortlessly. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit or


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