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No one is indispensable….planning for employee departure

A small business owner works hard and the business finally grows to a point that it can afford an employee. As time passes, the employee may be taken for granted, and little thought is given to the “what if that employee leaves?”

Small business owners feel that their employee(s) should remain loyal to them forever. Unfortunately, most employees will leave their current job at some point. I experienced that “day of reckoning” many years ago when my first and very loyal secretary and right hand person told me she was leaving. I never thought that the day would occur, but her husband’s promotion to another state required a move.

That single experience taught  me a very valuable lesson: the importance of planning for an employee’s departure. I learned that replacing a departing employee is not a negative, but an opportunity to take another growth step with your business.  I also learned that I must never again be unprepared when an employee leaves.

It is normal to feel angry and disappointed when employees tell you they are leaving.  You may feel that they did not appreciate the opportunity you gave them to grow with your business. An employee may leave your firm for many different reasons; death, retirement, relocation, family issues, and recruitment by other firms are but a few of the reasons.

Planning for the unexpected should be part of every business plan. In most cases planning looks at the target market, the product/services it provides, changes in the market and technological advances. Seldom is the employee issue considered. It, however, should be part of the business plan ”what if” scenario should be developed and ready for implementation. Cross training of employees is one way to mitigate the departure until a new person is hired.

Every small business with one or more employees should have a “what if” plan.

  • What if you lose your key person?
  •  What has to happen for the business to continue in the short term?
  • Where is your next employee “hiding”?
  • What characteristics and background are you looking for in future employees?

These, along with a few other issues, should be part of a business plan that deals with the sudden departure of an employee.

Turnover is inevitable. How you handle the situation is more important than the departure of the employee. If you are prepared, then this is an opportunity for growth.

Every change is an opportunity for growth if it is received as one.            Nick J. Petra CFP

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