Updated on October 2 to reflect President Trump's positive coronavirus test. 

I think we can all agree that the past six months have been a bit surreal. And for many small business owners, the way we do business has permanently changed. Some of my business coaching clients have had to rethink the way they run their businesses from the ground up while others have had to scale their means of production quickly to meet the increased demand for their product or service during the pandemic. No matter what camp you fall into, everyone can agree that the anxiety and stress of Covid-19 is very real.

The news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for Coronavirus has put the question of leadership in the time of Covid into high relief. The issue: 

What Happens with a Company When a CEO Gets Sick?

For the presidency, there are many established protocols in place to help deal with incapacitation. But for many small business owners, this may the first time that many leaders have really contemplated their own position within the business and had to consider what it would look like if they were to get sick, or worse. We have done this exercise with owners for years, which we call the "Strategic Depth" or "Hit By A Bus" challenge. 

This basically refers to your business's ability to handle situations or tasks if you or another key team member is unable to perform their duties (i.e. Hit by a Bus). If you are sick and can't come in to sign checks, does your staff go unpaid? If someone has to go into quarantine, where are the holes in your company? And who would be able to pick up where that person left off in their absence? Who suffers if only one person can handle a certain task?

For many businesses, they have been face to face with these very questions over the last few months. Maybe you had to deal with a team member (or many) having to quarantine or worse. Within a day or two, you likely saw areas that you needed strategic depth in but were unsure of how best to go about cross training your staff. If you haven't had such a situation yet, consider planning for the inevitable by doing the following:

  • Map out positional reliances. What tasks are only able to be done by one person in the company? Enlist the help of the whole team here and find out who is doing what and who could jump in and help when needed.

  • Prioritize. If a person were to get sick or have to take a leave of absence today, which reliances would need to be addressed first? Forward facing positions like customer service or dealing with payroll and such are often the most pressing, but this will vary from company to company. Once you have your list prioritized, take the time to work with your team to start cross training where needed.

  • Start with yourself (owner) first to reduce the perceived fear.  Talk about why it matters: "I am going to be out of the office for a few days, what two to three items do we need to cross train on to ensure we don't have a mess or things stacked up when I come back?"

  • Have a fire drill. Let's try to have another team member run things when I am still "here."

Take Care of Yourself

Doing the tips above will help your business continue to run and service its customers with little interruption. That coupled with some self care for you and your team can go a long way to keeping the "bus" from hitting you or a team member. Make sure that you and your staff are taking time off as needed, getting adequate sleep and taking time for mental and physical rest.