Any manager of an old fashioned factory knows that the secret for uninterrupted production and small downtimes is having lots of spare parts laying around. Preferably neatly organized in a technical room. That way when a machine breaks down you can fix it ASAP.
Thus downtimes are minimized, production is maximised and if sales are good then profits are strong.
But what do you do when you are in a creative and technical field, where the “machines” are actually the employees. They are the ones creating the product because it springs from their brains. A great example of such a business is a software company.
There the equipment isn’t the important part. Sure a laptop might break down but it is easily replaced and it does not shut down the whole production of the company. And if need be, you can go out and buy a new laptop on the spot.
What truly hurts is having a key employee stop being productive or even decide to leave. And if a key project depends on the specialised skills of the departing employee, then you are in a world of pain.
In fact you are in a worse situation than a plant manager who has his whole plant shut down due to a machine breaking. At least he knows how long it will take to order a replacement part and he is guaranteed that it will work as good as the old one out of the box.
But with a new employee you can’t know if you’ve made the right hiring choice until a couple weeks or months down the road.
That is why a good idea is to charge a little more for your services so as to be able to have at the same time more people with the same level of skills working at your company, without any if them being overworked.
Or, if you can’t afford to keep more people employed than necessary due to the viciousness of the competition, then have your HR department constantly searching and sourcing new possible hires. Not just search for them, but also do the initial screening.
And the best part is that you can be upfront with the possible future hires. Tell them that at the moment you don’t need their services but you are growing fast and would like to stay in touch with them for status updates. That way you get to build your own database of prescreened and competent people that you can reach out to and hire when a key employee is leaving you.
And if you stumble upon a great person, with skills out of this world, just hire him. Don’t look at the budget. A good person knows how to pay for himself fast.