Whether you work in a home office or one filled with coworkers, chances are that few other people know exactly what you’re working on and what has to be done. Most of the information is on the tip of your tongue, not written down. Would your coworkers know where to pick up the project to continue your work, or even what projects you are prioritizing? If you are not around coworkers daily, how long would it take for someone to notice your absence? A missed deadline, perhaps? Unanswered emails?
Preparing for succession is a professional practice practiced by very few. The projects you pour your sweat and blood into risk failing if you go AWOL. You don’t want them to fail. You believe in your projects; you will think of them from your hospital bed.
Here are some things you can do to make sure your clients and projects are served even when you can’t continue.
Checklist for Succession
- Have a business executor
- Keep current projects in an easy-to-find place
- Maintain notes on progress and yet-to-dos
- Sort files well and maintain version control
- Note contact info related to current projects in a prominent location
- Start now
We will expand on these points in future posts, but here are the crib notes:
Start now because it will be too late once you are unexpectedly incapacitated—whether that be by your own circumstances or those of someone you love. At minimum, keep a list of current project titles and contact info and put a placeholder in the working files to show where you left off. Include some kind of identifier in the filenames to indicate which version is current so that some older version is not forwarded to the person who takes over from you.
The Business Executor
This is someone who knows how you work and what your work is about, so that they can find and forward the necessary files so that your projects do not die without you. It could be a family member, it is probably wise for it to be someone else; family will likely be busy caring for you at this time, or you for them.
Ideally, this executor will be able to take over the projects for you because they know how you work and what the projects need. If you have people you work with regularly, it won’t take a great deal of notes to get them up to speed, because they understand your practices and processes inherently.
At the very least they should be contacting your project managers, telling them briefly what is happening, and making sure they get all the files they need in order to keep the project going.
From the business side of things, it would be great if this executor could also send out invoices for work done to date, so that money keeps flowing.
Who could you call on to pick up where you left off? Is your work organized so well that someone with a basic understanding of file structures (but knowing nothing about your work) could find what you were working on? Do you keep notes about current projects and contacts so that someone could let people know you’re unable to work? Log in to leave a comment, or join the discussion over on Facebook or Twitter.
Also see this post on planning for succession.