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Could Your Firm Cope If You Weren't Around?

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If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, would your company survive?

Marjorie is the HR manager at a relatively small organization in Ottawa for whom I am conducting an organizational review. She has been there for more than 15 years and as the company has grown, she has grown with it. She is very good at her job, and she is the only one handling HR -- including payroll, benefits and even some accounts payable -- for her firm.

Sound familiar?

Think about the fact that Marjorie is the only one at her company who knows how to do the payroll. More than 150 people rely on her to pay them twice a month. If Marjorie were hit by a bus, a lot of people would be in big trouble.

She can never go on vacation during a pay week; she works a lot of overtime, and she has a lot of responsibility (and you're right -- she isn't compensated enough for that responsibility).

Marjorie is the only one that knows how to get the payroll processed each month. In a pinch, she can get help from coworkers, but her company isn't really in a position to cross-train employees. Her friends will help her out if she is stuck, but it really isn't their job to be her backup. If she wasn't there to provide direction, things wouldn't get done.

Do you know how to avoid this in your organization? Do you know how to prevent your company from falling apart if you weren't there?

Don't get hit by a bus.

Seriously? The reality is that many companies are in exactly this situation. (And yes, if this is a concern for your company, call me and I certainly can help you.) But let's look at the bigger picture and share some things you can do now to ensure that your company wouldn't fall apart if you were to suddenly disappear.

What can we do?

Here are four things you can do to ensure that your company won't grind to a halt without you:

1. Create a passwords list
Just reading that may make you instantly fearful. "You can't put all of that information in one spot!" But you really need to do that -- not just at work, but at home, too. Passwords are no longer easy to figure out, and assuming that someone can "make it happen" is unrealistic. If a password is good, it will be by definition, difficult to figure out. If your company is huge, perhaps IT will be able to help (a slim possibility, as even Apple is unwilling to unlock a phone) but unless you are a Fortune 100 company (with tons of manpower), they really will be stuck without your passwords. Don't let them be stuck.

Create a folder on your private drive (not on your company intranet) that has the passwords that are needed. Give it the most boring name you can think of -- like "Asynchronous Data Log." It needs to be a document that no one would think to open, except someone who knows what the document really is. If you are truly concerned about Internet security, print the list out and keep it somewhere in your office, or somewhere it will be easily found by the right people.

Does your significant other have your passwords? My husband and I have a folder in Dropbox we both have access to that has a list of our passwords. Yes, this means that he has access to my personal bank accounts. Seriously, if I thought he was going to abscond with my money, would I be married to him? Of course not.

We need passwords for:
- The FedEx/Purolator account
- The company bank account (your personal bank account, even!)
- Your payroll provider
- Your HR provider software
- Your voicemail
And on and on. If you have a password, it needs to be written down.

There are also a number of codes, similar to passwords, that you should make a note of on this document as well:
- Your cell phone code
- Your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn account (they do need to be taken down!)
- Your credit card account card codes
- Even your photocopier account code

2. Create a critical path
In project management we talk about a critical path and what needs to be done, when, to ensure the final project will hit completion.

You need a critical path for your job as well or things won't get done after that bus wipes you away.

For example:
- Funds need to be transferred on the 12th of each month for payroll
- ADP needs our payroll sheets no later than the 9th of each month
- ROE (Record of Employment) forms are sent electronically through X link
- Visa statements are due the 5th of each month, and accounting needs supervisor approval by 7th of each month for the 15th payroll run
- Flights/hotel/travel are booked through Amy@MyTravel.com a minimum of one month prior to travel
- Agendas for meetings need to be send five business days prior to meetings, according to our bylaws

3. Create a daily list of what you do
This sounds like a procedural manual, and it is. And yes, you do need to create one.

Caroline worked for me for a very long time, but her departure was very quick. That meant that when she left, I had to figure out the tasks that Warren and David could take over quickly so nothing was left to fall between the cracks.

Did things fall between the cracks? Absolutely. Did anything important fall? Not even close. We had a manual that more or less listed who did what and how to do it. It wasn't perfect (although it should be), but it was enough to make sure that I didn't fall apart when I lost my key support person.

4. Give signing authority
If you are a family-run business, you need to give someone (who you trust absolutely) signing authority for your company. They need to be a shareholder. This is typically a spouse or a child, but you cannot be the only one who can sign, who can make decisions, or who can run your company. What would happen if you were hit by a bus?

If you really care about your job (or your company), and I know you do, then you want to make sure that your company will never be in the lurch if something happens to you.

Marjorie has no intention of leaving her company "high and dry," even if she were to get another job (which she is not looking for). She loves her company and will bend over backward for them. The problem lies in not her willingness, but in her potential inability should something happen to her.

I've worked with Marjorie's company to get them on the right track in case of a critical employee disaster, are you willing to work with yours?

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