This past week more than 4 million Texans found themselves without power and approximately 12 million went without clean water. It was unexpected, tragic, and many people were unprepared for the storm and the aftermath that followed.

As a business coach for over 25 years, I have seen the repercussions of the unexpected in the business realm and it's not unlike what has happened in Texas. I have seen business owners struggle to regain their forward momentum after a devastating blow of losing a partner or a key team member. I have seen what happens when a business doesn't have strategic depth and hasn't planned for the unexpected. I have seen what happens when an owner thinks that "it could never happen to us." Fortunately for most business owners, there are steps that you can take now to be prepared in the future for the unexpected. 

The Hit by the Bus Test.

Would your business be able to stand the hit by a bus test? Strategic depth is your company's ability to weather a storm, both figuratively and literally. It's taking the time to think through all possible scenarios and creating a plan on how you can prepare if something were to happen to you or a key team member, and helps you negate the stress, fear, and anxiety that comes with running a business that is reliant on you. 

Let's say for instance that you have a key team member that has been with your company for 10-plus years. They are an integral part of the company and they have a lot of knowledge locked in their head. The business relies heavily on their expertise and they have been with you so long, you may take for granted that they will continue to stay with you for another 10 or 20 years. But what happens if their spouse gets a job offer out of state? Or if they fall ill and need to take medical leave? Do you have a plan for how to move forward? That's strategic depth.

How to Get Started.

The first thing is to identify the areas of concern. This could vary greatly, but a good start would be to look at your various company pillars and functions, and identify weaknesses in your sales/marketing area, financial, operations, etc. You can look at things like:

  • Accounts payable/receivable. If you were unable to sign checks would your business be able to keep going? How could you mitigate this risk?

  • Manufacturing/order fulfillment. If your current manufacturer, distribution house, or service workers were unable to come to work or do their duties, how long could your business keep going? How could you mitigate that risk?

  • Customer service. Who will be there to answer the phones or help with customer issues if you lose a key team member. Could a knowledge base or cross training help mitigate your risk in this pillar?

Check in Often

Once you have done the first pass and created a strategic depth plan, it's a good idea to check in often to not only measure your progress, but to also add in additional areas of concern. That nagging feeling you get when you lay down in bed at night, when you worry about what would happen to your business if you got sick and couldn't work anymore? That's an indication that you need to do more for your strategic depth. While you will still be thrown curve balls, the more prepared you are for the unexpected, the better off your business will be. Good luck!