A few years ago, I witnessed a near-disaster that could have been prevented with just a little bit of organization and a plain 3-ring binder.

The controller at one of my client’s companies passed away suddenly.  No one could find the passwords for QuickBooks and other apps she used.  There were regular reports she produced for various departments, but no one had a full list or even an idea of which ones were due when and to whom.  The lack of information affected some departments’ ability to place orders, schedule employees, and plan production.

While four people were scrambling around (not doing their regular jobs), trying to figure out what to do without her and how to do it, payments to vendors went unmade long enough that some stopped delivering crucial supplies.  Without those supplies, delivery of products and services to clients was delayed.  Customers were unhappy, and the company came very close to losing a few of them.  When the crisis was over and the overall financial impact of the crisis was calculated, it totaled several hundred thousand dollars.

Obviously, this is a worst-case scenario, and if you’re working with a VA, it’s likely your business isn’t on the same scale.  But it should still prompt a crucial question:  what would happen to your business if you or one of your team were suddenly incapacitated, unable to perform regular duties?

Or what would happen if it were your VA who met with misfortune?  Are there documents in place that would help a new VA learn to do the job?

The answers to these questions should be documented and on file in a place where your VA, and anyone else who might need them, can access them.  And it’s important for you to have these and reference them all the time, not just in an emergency.  This is especially true if your VA is doing something that requires him/her to interface with your clients.  These documents help ensure that critical steps don’t get skipped and you produce consistent results.

Three documents you need in your business

  1. SOP – Standard Operating Procedures

This is a high-level overview of who is responsible for doing what and when it must be done.  Mine are divided into sections according to the “when” – sections for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks.  If I hire a new VA, it will be easy for me to give him or her the document and say, “Review this and put appointments on the calendar as reminders of when each of these things is due.”

  1. Checklist and Procedures

Anything you do repeatedly in your business should be documented with a checklist or a procedure.  A checklist is simply a list of every task or step that must be accomplished for a project or process to be complete.  This is sufficient when the “how” is not important.  A procedure is a bit more detailed in that it tells exactly how each task must be performed.

  1. A “Just in Case” file

Make sure your VA knows what to do if anything happens to you.  For instance, if you were in an accident that required emergency surgery and extended rehabilitation, who should be notified, and what should they be told?  Who would take care of your customers until you return?  Are there any services or subscriptions that should be suspended while you’re out?

If you don’t have these documents and processes already in place, never fear – that’s what a VA is for!  A skilled one will be able to help you document what you already have, tweak them to make them as efficient as possible, alert you to any missing pieces, and make ongoing updates as your business and needs change.

Rachael Hodo is Founder of ProAdmin Solutions, LLC, a VA firm which specializes in general administration, content marketing, and association management services.  Rachael and her team work by referral only.  You can reach her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rachaelhodo.