There’s a lot that goes into running a successful business. And successful businesses come in every shape and size. But one thing that most long-lasting, consistently profitable businesses have in common is that they are NOT dependent on the physical presence of their owner day in and day out.

So here’s the key question: can your business run without you?

What would happen if you took a two-week vacation? What would happen if you got sick, or injured, and couldn’t work for a month? Would the business keep operating, keep serving customers, and keep growing? Or would everything grind to a halt?

The truth is that most small businesses fail this test. They are largely dependent on specific skills or knowledge that exists only in the mind of the business owner. Or they are dependent on relationships that exist between the business owner and his customers and vendors.

No matter what your long-term plans are – whether you plan to sell the business in the near future or you intend to keep working in it until you no longer have the ability – you will be in a much stronger position if the business can function without you.

The critical first step in accomplishing this goal is to begin “teaching” the business to run without you. And you do this by creating systems. Systems that can run consistently—and that can be run by an appropriately trained employee. Systems for marketing, systems for accounting, systems for customer service, systems for production, and so forth. It’s a big job, but it can be done small steps at a time – it’s vital to your long-term success and freedom.

You can begin by identifying what keeps you busy on a regular basis.  How do you spend your time?  Identify the different “roles” you play—customer service agent, salesperson, technician, bookkeeper. Choose a specific role, and begin documenting the procedure that you go through. Write it down, teach it to an employee, and move on to the next role.

Again, this is a big job. It may seem intimidating. But in order to create a scalable, consistent business… it can’t be dependent on you.

Is your business dependent on your presence? If not, what did you do to enable it to function without you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.