Training your staff to run your business without you

Two women in front of sign

A major frustration for most small-business owners is not being able to take time off from their business.

A report in 2019 stated around a quarter of Australia’s small-business owners had not had a holiday in four years. There is a widespread belief that the business depends totally on the owner being at the desk or on the tools every day of the year.

This culture not only is unhealthy for business owners but it also points to a reluctance to delegate and organise staff so that an owner can disappear for a few weeks without expecting that the business will crash.

Many owners compensate by just shutting the workshop down over the December break, but that’s not doing the right thing by the business.

All it takes is some staff organisation and a bit of training.

If owners begin planning right now, they may be able to take their end-of-year break and leave their business still ticking over in the hands of trained staff, who will usually rise to the occasion when given some extra responsibility.

Regardless of how good the holiday plan might be, owners may have to accept that when the leader is removed from any organisation, production and performance may fall. This does not mean that the staff are doing a bad job. It simply means that removing a critical piece of an organisation can be expected to have an impact.

Here are some skills that will help to minimise any impact the absence of the owner will have on the business.

Clarify who does what
To enable a workshop to operate successfully, many routine tasks are performed every day. These are a combination of workshop-related tasks and admin/office-related tasks.

These tasks are assigned to the four typically distinct roles in a workshop – the owner, the technician, the service advisor and the person who handles administration. Larger businesses have one person in each role. In a smaller workshop, one person might be responsible for multiple roles.

It is critical that the roles are well documented so that everyone is clear on who does what.

Assign responsibility
The next step is to allocate who is going to take on the owner’s tasks when the owner is away. Allocating each of the owner’s routine chores to a staff member reduces the risk of confusion and makes the running of the workshop very clear to everyone.

Perhaps some tasks can wait until the owner returns from holiday.

Appoint a leader
Business owners are usually the decision-makers on a daily basis, so somebody needs to be appointed as the team leader who will ultimately have overall responsibility for the business.

Once the leader is selected, it is vital to make all staff aware of the appointment. If your choice of leader has the potential to cause friction in the workshop, take the time to sit down privately with all concerned and discuss the reasons for your decision.

Train your staff
Don’t expect staff to immediately take on extra or new responsibilities the day you walk out the door on holiday. Take the time to train them. If a technician is going to take on the service advisor role, swap the roles for a week. Better for mistakes to be made while the owner is still around.

Trust your staff
This is the hardest step of all. When it comes to the crunch, many owners just can’t let go. Refer back to the point made earlier – just because the staff may not perform as well as the owner does not mean they aren’t doing a great job.

If you follow the simple formula above, you have just one more thing to do – take a leap of faith and trust your staff to do their job.

This article was published 12/07/2021 and the content is current as at the date of publication.