Business Mentoring Tip #71 – Think like an alien

July 2, 2012Post by Laura Humphreys

Imagine if you had to exit your life for 12 months (to go save the world because you are in fact a secret super hero… we are imagining here) and an alien version of you will be arriving to take over your household.  How will they know how to live your life in a way that doesn’t send everything and everyone around them into a complete spin?  You will need to leave them detailed instructions right? You will have to think of every single aspect of how your life runs – what you do, when you do it and how you do it.  From the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, including what time you get up and what time you go to bed.  You will need to write down instructions (yes they can read) for how your household runs, including how to work all the gadgets, how to pay the bills, how to access your bank accounts and where to find things.  You will need to explain who is in your family and how the family operates.  You’ll write down the rituals your family needs to function such as your meal times and types of food you eat. What time do the kids go to school?  How do they get there?  Who takes them? What do they do when they get home?  What do you do on the weekends? You will also have to consider what things are really important to your family. How do you treat each other? What are your values? What are your rules, the expectations you all have to guide your behaviour?

The more you think about it, the more things you can think of to write into this ‘manual’ for your life.  You want to make sure the alien you will run your world as close to the way you do it as possible.  You don’t want to miss anything out.

Aliens in the workplace

Now imagine this alien is going to come to work and attempt to run your business for a year. If they walked in today, how would they cope?  Would they know what to do?  How long would it take them to get up to speed?  Would they be able to run things exactly the way you do?  Or would they have to make it up as they go?  How dangerous would that be if they were let loose on your clients and your accounts without clear instructions?

It’s a pretty basic analogy but it works.  The alien in the workplace represents a potential buyer looking at your business and wondering if it will work without you in it.  If the answer to this is ‘no’ they are either going to walk away or insist you stay in the business for some considerable time to help them learn the ropes.

The alien could also represent a senior employee that you hope will take over a large part of the running of the business from you.  You want this person (or this team of senior people) to be willing and able to keep the business running the way you want it run.  You know what works.  You know what sales need to come in the door to meet targets for the year. You know what your clients expect from your company.  You know what keeps your staff motivated and what will create upset. You’ve got everything working well with you at the helm.  But how do you share this knowledge?  How do you ensure someone else will be able to keep everything running as smoothly as you do?

The answer to all of these questions is of course… with systems.

You ensure nothing exists purely inside someone’s head, neither yours nor your key staff members.  If someone holds information critical to your business and they don’t show up for work tomorrow, you have a problem…especially if that person is you.

In the next few blogs I’m going to talk more on systems – which systems you need and how to create them.  Watch this space!

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and experts in small business exit systems.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.