What Happens to Your Business If You Can’t Work?

If you’ve just started a business, or you’re running a small one, your work is crucial to the success of that business. You’ll be managing all the high-level tasks, including making decisions, staying on top of sales and cash flow, and providing direction for the future of the business. So what happens if something comes up and you’re rendered unable to work? What if you acquire a severe illness, or are the victim of a significant accident?

Your first reaction may be thinking that the business will go under. And to some extent, it’s true; if you aren’t working to make the business succeed, and you don’t take any action, your business won’t be able to survive. However, there are plenty of actions you can take to keep the business alive—even if you’re totally absent for the foreseeable future.

Seeking Compensation

First, if appropriate, you should seek compensation to help sustain yourself while dealing with your new set of circumstances—and possibly keep your business alive as well. For example, if you’re the victim of someone else’s negligence or mistake, you can hire a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. If you have disability insurance or if you’re set up under workers’ comp insurance, you may be able to file a claim. Once you have a stream of revenue flowing in, you’ll have more options for what to do with the business.

Delegating Your Responsibilities

If you’re not able to perform some or all of your responsibilities, your next best option is to have someone on your team fill in for you while you’re gone. This may mean assigning responsibilities to people on your team, or hiring new candidates to take over your tasks while you’re gone. Either way, you’ll want to use these important tactics:

  • Find the right candidates. Not everyone is going to be able to handle your responsibilities equally. If you’re hiring new people, make sure you hire candidates with a good work ethic, who fit the culture, and are at least as good as you are at the responsibilities you need them to cover. If you’re working with an existing team, understand each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and divide the responsibilities accordingly.
  • Document everything. Even if you’re ill or injured, you should be able to document at least some of the tasks you handle on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Write down as much as you can, in as much detail as you can, to provide a consultable resource for the people you’re delegating to.
  • Trust, but verify. Give responsibilities to people you trust to execute them—but for the first few weeks and months of your arrangement, follow up to make sure things are being executed properly.
  • Support when you can. Be available via phone for any questions your workers may have, or make yourself available in any way that you can. A little support goes a long way.

Hibernating the Business

It’s not abnormal to take a break from your business entirely, though this isn’t possible for every operation. During a business hiatus, you’ll work with your clients and customers to pause all purchases and contracts; in some cases, you may be able to keep certain automated functions, like regular monthly shipments, in place. You’ll keep all your insurance policies open, but you may lay off some or all of your staff members. Think of this as converting your business to “low power mode,” keeping it ready for a quick revival, but otherwise minimizing your costs and the effort the business demands from you.

Reshape Your Responsibilities

This strategy requires a bit of delegation, or a fundamental change to your business to be successful. Here, instead of pushing your responsibilities completely to someone else, you’ll transform your role in the business; for example, instead of going on sales calls, you might serve an advisory role to sales staff. You might scale back physically intensive responsibilities, and increase conceptual or coordination responsibilities you employ.

Close the Business

Your final option is to close the business entirely, though obviously, you’ll want to seek any of the other options on this list first. If you close the business, you’ll have the opportunity to reopen under a different name in the future, when you’re better able to handle the responsibilities of entrepreneurship. You could also use the opportunity to brainstorm and make plans for a different type of business altogether.

Either way, it will take some time to put the paperwork in order and finalize your last transactions. Use that time to brainstorm your next venture; just because this opportunity is ending doesn’t mean there won’t be more in your near future.



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