As a former President of my high school’s student council (Wolmers) I remember reading the organization’s constitution — with all the awe that a 16 year-old can muster. Part of my job (as
defined in the document) was to amend it and make it current — it was my first attempt to write a “turnover document.”
When I was appointed to a different position — Head-Boy — the following year, I was acutely aware that there was no document whatsoever that described the job, and all I had was the imperfect memory of my predecessors to try to follow. When I was about to graduate I panicked — and only made up for it by taking a very long walk with my successor around the school. In
an hour or so I did my best to pass on the experience of some 255+ Head-Boys that the school had had up until that point.
I suspect that my 18 year old mind did more to scare my 17 year old successor than anything else.
Yet, I am sure that my experience is close to what happens when executives turn accountabilities over to managers without doing the tedious work of systematizing their functions, and undergoing the painstaking coaching required to turn them over in phases. The result is a sharp loss of trust that is rarely replaced, because few executives realize that the source of the managers failure (and success) is actually in themselves, and not in the manager.
What does all this talk about turnover documents have to do with small business owners?
Simply put, even small business owners must work ON their companies, as well as IN them. In other words, they must work on the structure of their companies as much as those professionals who work in the largest multinationals.
For example, I am having a challenge converting this issue of FirstCuts into html, and placing it on my blog. I do not know html very well, yet each month I have to determine why the html in Blogger (the blog host) works differently than every other place.
While I may or may not ever hire an IT specialist, I am suffering because I didn’t capture the procedures I used back in February, and now that I need them in March I am having to reinvent the wheel.
Secondly, in my opinion, the difference between a small, casual company and a small, serious company is the degree of infrastructure the owner has created to run the company on a consistent basis, whether there are ten people or just one person on the payroll. Only hobbyists can afford to run their company casually, and without infrastructure — and even hobbyists can make money.
However, at the end of their careers, hobbyists have little to show for their efforts other than a company that supported them at a casual level. Their company cannot be bought, sold or merged because its success is reliant on the personality of the owner, rather than the infrastructure they created to keep the entity viable.
These are the two reasons I can think of — if you’d like to add your own, please do so in the comments below.