It never fails. Every perfect situation has a downside and it usually shows up at the most inopportune times. Loosing key employees is one of these events that can really set your programs back or worse. You can try to guard against this, but it is inevitable that when an employee is ready to leave, they GO.
It is like having a facility with key equipment and the operations are running smoothly. A piece of equipment breaks and you call the repairperson. Then wait, and wait, and wait! The operations are at a standstill because nothing can take place due to the outage of the key equipment. Once repaired, the processing can resume and eventually it gets back to normal.
Losing a key person in your company is manageable but this depends on you and the remaining team. It also depends on how much overlap you had in the team functions. Sometimes, the loss is a person where there is no overlap and the team was not involved in the related activities. This can cause a shutdown of parts of your program and missing milestones in your timelines.
There are activities you can consider that may prevent maximal downside from the loss of an important team member. Here are just a few:
Overlap Functions: To the extent possible, having other members of the team involved in every aspect of the business may allow someone to step in the role of the missing member. The individual assuming the new responsibility may have a learning curve but that is much better than starting with no background or knowledge of the duties and functions left behind.
Hire an Experienced Consultant: It is possible to find people that have relevant experiences and retain them in a consultant capacity. You may even be able to transition them to a permanent position, but your immediate need of bring the job up to normal speed will be quicker with an experienced person. The learning curve will mostly be figuring where you were at the time of departure of the key employee. Things will proceed smoothly once the background is learned.
Hire Over-lapping Consultants: Sometimes, the job is such that it may take more than one person to fill the knowledge gap left behind. Retaining more than one consultant can fill the gaps and the needs in house will center on coordination of their efforts. One of the in house project managers may be able to manage the process and lead the effort.
YOU DO IT: It is not as if you do not already have too much to do. One of the best ways to manage your small startup is to understand and participate with each of the activities in the company and know where the team is at all times. When you lose someone, if all else fails, you can take the lead to maintain the activity until a new hire fill the role. This way, you can also provide the history of activities to the new hire and help them get up to speed efficiently.
It is important to be involved with your team and fully understand their activities. Try to be aware of sighs suggesting you may be losing people can cause serious setbacks. In doing so, you can guard against the losses and plan for such events.
Taffy Williams is the author of: Think Agile: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon