When you are bigger than startup but still a small company, when you are trying to grow organically, when you have a very tight budget and attempting to operate with profitability; in these and few other circumstances, you may find yourself dealing with a “small company problem.”
This definition describes the situation when some particular person does every critical activity in your business. Therefore, you feel that you cannot replace this person without seeing business suffer. It is when you are going through the list of employees and acknowledge that not only you cannot reduce any position in the company (which is okay and only confirms that you have optimal structure), but you cannot afford losing particular people occupying these positions. They all are key people, possess unique knowledge and somehow turn out to be unreplaceable.
Obviously, eventually, you will have problems managing individuals who think or know they are unreplaceable. Apparently, such person may try to take advantage of the business and its management. Also, management will be somewhat limited in tools and options to control such employees.
I do not think there is an easy solution here. After all, if you just cannot afford to hire another person to organize “fault tolerance” in that or another part of the business – you cannot. So what to do?
- Make sure to evaluate the position. Maybe you can still cancel it all together.
- Maybe you can afford to have an extra junior person. Maybe it makes sense to have two such guys instead of one senior for the particular task.
- Accurately document all the work done, so the transition is theoretically possible.
- Do not do too many things in the house. Outsource where and how possible.
- Do a stress test. Try to give the vacation to that or another particular employee. Business must survive.
- Consider offering stock or partnership to critical contributors.
Moreover, of course, do grow fast. As you grow, this problem will disappear by itself. No programmer can put Microsoft into the difficult situation. In fact, no CEO can.