Friday, July 29, 2022

5 Responsibility Holes

 When it comes to remotely managing a business, there are likely some responsibility holes you may have overlooked. These are areas of responsibility that require, you the owner, and only you, to properly manage. We want to eliminate these as much as possible, to maintain independence. Here are a few:

1. Hiring a Manager. If you have staff and you're remote, it likely means there is a middle layer of management. Ideally this person will stay for years and give you plenty of notice before they leave. However, they could notify you of their two weeks notice at any moment or worse, get hit by a bus. You will need to come back from wherever you are to resolve this.

Resolution. Ideally you have someone being groomed as an assistant manager at all times. I say ideally, because it's common not to have anyone in line. Second choice would be someone who could manage operations while you return to hire your next manager. We have a relatively flat organization chart to where almost anyone can do anything, provided they had a little more access.

2. Security. The day after Christmas, I got a call at 5am from the alarm company. Someone broke into my store. Would I like them to call the police? Duh. I was 400 miles away. My manager didn't answer their phone and I put out an all hands request for anyone to meet the police at the store. Thankfully a junior employee stepped up. What if they didn't? 

Resolution. Ideally the manager would be a secondary or even primary contact with the alarm company and perhaps with property management. Keeping cell phone numbers handy of all your employees as an owner, even though you probably can't imagine ever calling them, could be critical in an emergency. From 400 miles away, I was able to arrange for a board up service to get us through the holiday weekend and eventually new glass. 

3. Final Paycheck. In some states, including mine, an employee is required to get their final paycheck their last day of work. No waiting for direct deposit; pay me now or may me my daily pay for every day you're late What if you, the owner and probably only person authorized to sign checks, is out of town? This happened yesterday.

Resolution. If you know an employee is leaving, proper planning can arrange an electronic rushed payroll on their last day. This doesn't work for someone fired on the spot, who again, needs to be paid right this moment. You could authorize a manager as a check signer. You could provide some check to the manager for this purpose, either blank or signed, or perhaps you could provide a cash reserve with a receipt showing final payment. I don't have a great solution to this. Thanks California.

4. Your Mail. It took me a couple years to start changing addresses so mail was sent to me house instead of the business.  There is still time sensitive mail that's important someone is authorized to open, notably your manager. For example: Letters from your landlord, government correspondence and unemployment audits, and one that haunted me for a week, potential lawsuits that require a quick response. 

Resolution. Teach your manager to triage mail, scan and email important documents, and generally take responsibility for your physical in-box. 

5. Supplier Invoices. During my first long trip of several months, the manager would take in orders, create a spreadsheet of invoices that we shared, and I would pay invoices remotely. Some were inevitably missed. How do you avoid invoice mistakes?

Resolution. Moving entirely away from paper, I now track every order in a POS database with a shipping tracking number. Generally, that tracking number is part of an invoice. When there is no tracking number, it means there is no invoice, and it triggers me to query vendors. Taking complete ownership of orders means fewer steps, fewer mistakes. It's also more work. This is great until a random order shows up with no tracking or invoice, which triggers alarms from staff, at which time an exception occurs, and we resolve it. 


6. Oh F#&* Budget. What happens when you need to fly home to hire a new manager, you have a minor disaster, or Wizards of the Coast decides they don't like your furniture?

Resolution. Money in the bank. Plan to have a few thousand dollars or more to cover your return flight, emergency glass replacement at holiday rates, or other eventualities. Maybe you can even bribe your manager to stay another month. Money will buy your way out of a lot of problems. 

Anyway, those are my big holes after two years of working from home. I plan to take my first long, international trip in 2023 and I am fully aware I may need to take a flight home at any moment. 

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