Preparing for potentially disruptive business events is key for any entrepreneur. But while plenty of business owners have emergency plans in place for when marketing tactics go awry or an unexpected event significantly hinders financial capabilities, few prepare for the departure of critical employees.

While many entrepreneurs may assume employees will remain loyal for years to come, that may not necessarily be the case. Life events, more enticing offers and a desire to make a career change can all factor into a team member’s decision to leave a firm, and these aren’t always factors a business owner has control over.

It’s important business owners realize their staff is their greatest asset, and when team members turn in their notice, this can seriously shake up your systems and processes. Thus, advance preparation is essential, even though most leaders hope for as little turnover and as much advance notice as possible.

Know When – and How – to Sway an Employee’s Decision
When workers suddenly turn in their notice, management teams need to consider whether they’ll be willing to let these individuals go, or they want to try to convince them to stay onboard. In some instances, long-time employees who are accustomed to handling tricky clients or bringing in plenty of new business may be too valuable and knowledgeable for a company to let go without some negotiation. But employers may find it can be easier to let some newer staff members or those who have fallen short of expectations leave without too much of a fight.

If a key employee announces they’d like to move on, it’s important to have some idea of what to offer that will change the individual’s mind. Will a raise, new position with the firm or additional responsibilities prove too enticing for a worker to pass up? Knowing what employees want – and being willing to give a little ground to retain top players – can help an entrepreneur retain talented staff members.

Take Action Quickly
If an employee’s mind can’t be changed, it’s critical to act fast – the longer a you and your team waits to do something about a departure, the more difficult the transition will be. Make focusing on this problem a priority until it is resolved, or the weeks after a worker departs may be chaotic and possibly detrimental to a company’s reputation. 

Having a plan in mind before an employee announces their departure can help speed along the process. A firm may typically rely on staffing agencies or online job postings to fill open positions, and it may find those methods sufficient for getting a new worker in the door and trained quickly. However, some entrepreneurs may have it in mind to instead ask another employee to take on new responsibilities or offer a promotion. Designating responsibilities and starting the training process immediately can help ensure the impact felt when one worker leaves is as minimal as possible.

Know Exactly What’s at Risk
Entrepreneurs know what their staff members’ main responsibilities are, but they need to consider how those duties will increase risk once a team member leaves the company. Even the smallest tasks a worker is responsible for can have an impact on client relationships, marketing plans and general office operations once they have left the company.

Carefully determine which tasks an employee completes that could expose a company to the most risk after he or she is gone. By identifying jobs that need to be passed off to other employees as quickly as possible, a business can mitigate the chances of making a wrong move or forgetting an important duty that could hurt it in the long run.