You've reached a new point in your small business. You've even brought on a new employee. And this person is good at what they do.
They aren't as experienced as you, but they have a great way of interacting with the clients.
One day, a friend says to you, "Wow — I could see your employee taking your job one day!"
"Hold on a second," you think, "I'm not going anywhere."
But then you think it over. Would it be such a bad idea to train my employee to do my job?
The answer is: no, actually. In fact, it could be a realistic and business-savvy thing for you to do. Aside from making sure that you have business insurance, training an employee who could replace you is one of the top things you can do to set yourself up for success. We'll go into the reasons why it's never a bad idea to start training your employees to not only do a job for you, but to replace you.
People who enjoy their jobs are often good at what they do. But training an employee to do their job well for the sake of them staying shouldn't be your only motivation. Obviously if an employee is good at their job, it's good for the overall business. The way they perform their day-to-day activities should result in higher revenue, better customer service, and overall efficiency.
You like working with this person and since they joined your team, it's likely to have taken a huge amount of work off your plate so you can focus on doing what you do best and share the responsibility.
But if you're a business owner, although you appreciate sharing the mountain of work you may have in front of you, you can't afford not to be realistic about the possibilities of the future.
Say something happens. Maybe you get sick or injured or have to leave the business for a few days or even a week because of a family emergency. We don't like to think of these events occurring, but they can and do.
In order to be responsible as a business owner, you have to think ahead and consider: What would happen to my business if I couldn't work and my employee needed to do most, if not all of the work for a certain amount of time?
Would your employee know how to handle things if, for some reason you didn’t show up for work tomorrow?
The answer to this question should definitely be: yes. Your employee will need the confidence and the know-how to continue on and keep things running smoothly.
We all hope that you wouldn’t just not show up to work, but emergencies happen. If something were to go wrong or not to plan, training your employee on how to not only perform the tasks their role requires, but tasks that must be performed, whether or not you're present, must be considered.
Of course if you don't show up to work, you'll need someone to do the work. But remember what's on the other side of the services you provide or the product you sell — money.
Without someone doing the work, you'll miss out on the income you need to keep up your business and your lifestyle. If you've ever taken a sick day as a solo business owner, you probably know this struggle.
In the past, I've had to push back deadlines (and thus, when I'd get paid) or say no to clients altogether because of illness. It's a huge disappointment to know that because of something totally out of your control, you have to forfeit time and money and miss out on work that you'd genuinely like to take on if you could.
Luckily, I got better and could continue working, but not everyone is so fortunate. If I had gotten sick with a more serious illness, a lot worse could've happened. And a lot worse has happened to people who aren’t able to continue working: they end up closing their doors because they don’t have the revenue to pay their overhead in the time they're out.
This is what happens to business owners who don't have an employee they trust to run things when they can't.
Even though you own the business, we've gone this far without mentioning the most important person to your business — which is, of course, the customer. They're used to working with you, whether it's you who provides a service or you that hands over a product, they're used to doing business with you and how you do things.
But for one reason or another, you can't be there. So what does that mean for the customer?
It means that they'll have to interact with your employee. This is another reason why it's a good idea to train your employee to provide a service or deliver a product that's in line with your standards and what you'd deliver.
You won't have to worry whether or not your customers will get the same service from your employee if you aren't around to do it. But it does mean that you'll have to help level up your employee's training.
If this is your first hire, you probably want someone who is confident enough in their trade that they don't need their hand held or have each step of a project mapped out for them. At the same time, remember that even if they are experienced in the work you hired them to do, they're still new when it comes to working for you and your business, under your brand.
Remember when you hire an employee, that may mean changes to your business' insurance business insurance policy--so be sure to check!
One of the great parts of running your own business is that each day looks a little (depending on your work) different. But that doesn't excuse you from taking care of the boring parts of the business.
Even though you may be working on different projects each day, there are components of a project, like budget management, time management, and customer communications, that are necessary for each job to maintain its momentum.
When a new employee starts, teach them what you expect them to do on a daily basis. This may be going over inventory, or maybe it involves a check-in call with the customer to keep them updated on progress. Also be sure to let them know what you take care of on a daily basis, whether that means budget, timelines, checking into new business, or other tasks.
All training should be done with care, but when you're going over the tasks that you perform daily, be sure to emphasize how you like things done and the "why" behind that. For example, do you typically call customers at a specific time of the day? Do you set aside a specific day of the week for accounting purposes? Be sure to note these specifics.
If your employee has to fill in for you at some point, then documenting how you do things will help them understand how to represent your business in the same way that you would if you were performing the task.
It may seem unnecessary to document a long-term plan when it's just you and one or two employees. After all, when you run a business, you could pivot plans week to week, depending on the factors that influence your business.
Even so, have a long-term plan documented in some way that your employee can access. This includes access to important legal documents, such as deeds or access to your business insurance policy. In case of an emergency or a time when you can't take care of things yourself, having a list of long-term goals and tasks to complete could keep the business from floating or sinking..
We all hope that nothing goes wrong. But most business owners know that at some point, something will go wrong, and if you can't categorize it as wrong, you can at least say it goes entirely differently than how you imagined.
In the end, the most important thing to consider when training your employee is that you want to train them in a way that, regardless of who is doing the work, your customer will be happy with the result, which ultimately will keep the cash flowing into your business.
Don't think of it as training your employee to replace you. Instead, think of training your employee to provide such a good service or a product to a customer, that the customer comes back to your business the next time they need a service or product. A happy customer and positive overall experience is the goal here!
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I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself - I'm a freelance writer and yoga teacher - I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).
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