Dismantling the Hub and Spoke

How would your business run if you were out sick for one day? What if you took a week-long vacation or a month-long leave of absence? If the answer to those questions is, “It wouldn’t,” you’re probably running your business in the “hub and spoke” model. 

This traditional business model is represented as a wheel. In the center is you, the owner. Branching out from you are all of the other departments, jobs, and people who make your business run everyday

The owner of the business fields all questions, concerns, decisions, and customer issues. All other parties report directly to the owner, who then delegates tasks out to other employees based on his or her decided course of action.

While this might seem like an efficient way to make decisions, and one that leaves little room for error, it also creates very little business value. If you pull the hub away, you’re left with spokes that can’t communicate with one another. Once you leave, the company you worked so hard to build is going to crumble without you running the show. 

A prospective buyer isn’t going to want to purchase a business that can’t function if you aren’t around. They want a business that demonstrates sustainable, efficient productivity in any circumstance. 

While releasing some of your power can feel overwhelming, doing so is an undeniable investment in the future value of your company. 

Pulling Out the Hub

An easy way to start is to take a short vacation. Even a long weekend is enough to get started. Allow your employees to call, ask questions, and seek your advice. Make note of these questions, as they represent gaps in the current model. 

For example, if an employee calls because they don’t know how to print an invoice, you know you need to train someone in that skill. If a department calls because they don’t have access to a particular, needed data file, someone other than you has to have access. 

Once you’ve filled in some of the initial gaps, take more time away. Try two weeks. While some problems are certainly going to arise in two days, two weeks will be much more telling of existing issues. That length of time is typically enough to run payroll, create an employee schedule, submit receipts to accounting, and any number of other business necessities that take place once or twice a month. 

Now that you’ve gathered some data, you can start building a more independent business model. 

Doing Business by the Book

When you get back into the building after your vacation, sit with your employees and ask them to share their experiences. What were they frustrated or overwhelmed by? What did they do well? How did they adapt to a specific problem or challenge? Be willing to listen with the intent to learn. Their input will be very telling of the areas where improvements need to be made. 

Sit down with your data, both qualitative and quantitative, and start writing. Create instructions for everything that your employees mentioned, then go beyond that. Write down everything you can think of that you have to do for your business, then build those duties into a guide. 

When your guide is ready, start assigning those duties to individuals and departments. It might require additional hiring or training, but the future buyer is going to appreciate that they don’t have to learn everything from you before their newly acquired business can function in your absence. 

Once you feel confident that your company can continue running even when you’re away, you have successfully broken free of the hub and spoke model. You’re one step closer to selling your business! 

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