Successful businesses have a plan. And that plan should literally be spelled out for all key players to refer too. An excellent team knows each member’s function and how to step in when needed. 


The continuing series covering the Business Hierarchy of Needs delves deeper into necessary details to have in place so business productivity and efficiency never waver. 


Read on to get this wealth of information from our latest Systematic Excellence Podcast


Designing Your Business to Run Unabated


Amalie: Today we’re going to talk about “linchpin redundancies.” We’re going to look at explaining  how to figure out if your business is designed to operate unabated, when key employees are not available. Even if you’re not available too, as the business owner and CEO.


Janine: It’s the one guy theory, right? It’s like you can’t have that one guy that when he goes missing, it all falls apart. You can’t have your business falling apart. Your livelihood depends on it. Your team members’ livelihood depends on it. It’s not just an exercise for fun, right? It’s not just playing while the boss is away. It’s important to make sure that the business can function when key employees are not available for whatever reason, especially the unexpected last minute, once when there’s no time to prepare, now’s the time.


Amalie: And so what the importance of this is to have cross training and to have clear SOP’s, SO important!


Know Your Standard Operating Procedures


Janine: It stands for “Standard Operating Procedure. It’s a list of step by step instructions that, ideally, if the person who normally functions in that role for whatever SOP you’re looking at, if they’re not available, you could literally have a temp come in, sit down and follow the step by step and get the job done.


Amalie: Making sure that people know where to find the processes. We talked about outcome delegation and minimizing wasted effort, we talked about the fact that you need to make sure that whoever owns that process is refining it and updating it. Cross training, making sure people know how, and have access to your software. That’s really important. To help to ensure that’s the case is having a clear onboarding process for team members and making sure that they get all the access they need to the different software. They should have access to it from the very beginning and how you do that is have a clear checklist of what the person needs to have access to. And even if they’re not going to use it all the time, I would highly recommend just giving them access to those things.


Janine: You may be literally incapacitated. You may simply not listen to internet and power outages. You literally are cut off from communications. It has to be done in advance for all those things to happen.


Amalie: Making sure that people have access to the resources they need, they have access to all those things that are saved. Our onboarding process, not only do we have a Google doc with the onboarding process, but we have checklists inside of click up that tell you exactly what they need to have access to. And then we use last pass to share passwords with them or give them access to Google drive or whatever the case may be. That allows us to ensure that they have the resources that they need to achieve whatever it is we’re delegating to them or tasking them. 


Cross Training the Team


Janine: And make sure they actually DO access everything as you start cross training. I’ve run into many times actually with employees making the comment that they are hesitant to fully document what they do because they’re afraid that they’re going to get fired; where they’ve essentially revealed all their magical expertise and then been replaced by a lower paid employee. Don’t do that because you just got rid of a treasurer who has an expertise and they will continue to do more things and wonderful things for your company than who you just hired to replace them. We’ve been hired by people to build the SOP and the team is everyone on the team. Their first feeling is, “Oh my gosh, are we going to get fired?” And it’s like, no, but how would you like to be able to take vacation? So it can be a happy reason. But just be aware that they will have those fears, and address them from the get go.


Amalie: Being able to take time away, not just you as the business owner or CEO, but your team members too. Someone can take time off without there being a huge stress in your life because you or the team member are not going to have to take anything on. The team member with the additional work is confident that they know what to do. If it can feel stressful, if they’re being asked to do something and they have no idea what they’re doing and there’s no process, now they have to try to figure it out. Well, now that it’s going to take you as a business owner to help the person, right. And then you’re in a position where nobody can take time off. No one can go anywhere because otherwise your business will fail.


Janine: That’s where you need to start. So as security protocols get more and more complex, make sure that they have access. Just because we generally work with companies that have remote teams, as travel opens back up and people move around and they’re working from home. They’re still working, make sure that you have a means by which someone can enable their access. I’m speaking to things like two step verification.What happens if that person with that phone is not available and then team members need access? So those kinds of things need to be accounted for. Imagine a team member is traveling. You’re relying on them to do something. And if you’re not available. Have a process for that eventuality, it’s gonna catch you off guard. We don’t want you caught off guard. Right? No surprises. 


Where to Start


Amalie: A place to start with this is to sit down with your team and have a conversation. In both our other episodes we talked about minimizing wasted effort and we talked about the outcome delegation. Sit down with your team and ask them “Hey, where are you with these? Who knows how to do this process other than you?” Getting your team together and having a conversation about it; if you don’t know, that’s okay. Start looking at: so this person does this process. Is there anyone else that knows how to do it? No. Okay. Now we need to start assigning other people the different steps in it. Do a review of the standard operating procedure, make sure it’s up to date. Then train someone on it and help them figure out who’s going to cross train to make sure they know how to do everything. If you’re not sure, just pull your team in. The operations person should be able to do this. If you don’t have an operations person, then you pull someone from the outside. That’s something that Janine and I do. So you’d pull in someone like us and have them do an evaluation for you and help you figure out where there is or isn’t a redundancy. Sometimes when you’re in it, in the midst of it, it is hard to see. So bring someone from the outside. Now, if you have an operations person, if you have an integrator, if you have that role already filled, you may still feel like you want an outside person to come in and work with your operations person. That’s fine too.


Janine: That’s super important, it’s not that you can’t do it, or you may even feel confident doing it, but is it really the best thing that you should be doing with your time? As far as linchpin redundancy, take a step back. Now this is from Mike Michalowicz’ book, Fix This Next, that we’re following in this particular series on podcasts. And we are Fix This Next advisors, but he has another book that’s specifically around systems called Clockwork. And really putting this to the test, is, you’re the first person who should be taking a vacation. And if your team breaks out in a cold sweat and your business is going to fall apart, if you step away, then that’s definitely a sign that, first, you need to be replaceable. So it begins with you. But even replacing yourself, is that the best thing for you to be doing? That’s where we can help make that go easier and faster for you to get that set up. Because what do most business owners do when they’re doing this for the first time? They kind of take their mess and they hand it off to that next person in line that they most rely on, now that person is stuck in a mess. So they may not be the linchpin person anymore, but they just created an even bigger one in one of their other employees. The problem just keeps getting passed around or just passed that one time and then it’s not identified until that day comes from that employee’s not showing up. Meanwhile, they’re doing all the things they are supposed to be doing.


In conclusion:


Amalie: To give you a starting point, you really need to take a step back and you need to engage with your team to find out who knows how to do what? You want to make sure that everyone knows how to do someone else’s job and hear from them about who knows how to do what and what they don’t know how to do. You want to know from the person that’s doing the task, the operation, using the software, what is the most effective way to use it? This is the outcome I want, how is the best way to get that done? Who else knows how to do this other than this one person? What role are you in? Do you feel like you’re in the role that it best fits your goals and needs and desires from a role alignment? What it comes down to is getting an outside perspective, looking at the big picture of your business and how it operates and engaging with your team and having them tell you what’s going on for them as far as the operations for them.


Janine: You’re not done until you put it to the test and send those team members on vacation. You should expect that small steps got missed. And there are going to be questions asked and make yourself available to the people that are taking on the delegated role while this person has gone the first time around and then clean it all up and you’re good to go. And then you can take your two week vacation. Again, because you should have done it first!


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