One of my favorite resources as a small business owner is the New York Times Small Business section. Several months ago, the Times started a blog aimed at small business owners entitled “You’re the Boss–The Art of Running a Small Business.” While not every post will resonate with every small business owner, the articles are always well-written and thought-provoking.
One of this week’s posts, Unfinished Business, relates the story of writer Jay Goltz’s cousin, the owner of a small accounting practice who died after a short battle with cancer. The story is a very personal one, but holds lessons for every small business owner.
While business succession plans can be very important planning tools, not every small business owner has a business which can be sold or passed on to family members. However, the author makes a great suggestion, one that applies to each and every one of us.
Goltz suggests creating and annually reviewing a disaster plan to include information such as bank account numbers, passwords, and insurance policy information. I would suggest including contact information for any people or companies important to your small business–your lawyer, accountant, vendors, suppliers.
Goltz includes a list of possible succession alternatives for his business. And since you are creating the disaster list to relieve stress and confusion at a time when your family may be in no emotional condition to make major decisions, he includes a “get out of guilt free” card so his spouse and children don’t feel obligated to carry on the business because they believe it is what he would want. I know in my own life, I heard my Dad express regret many times about giving up his small jewelry store to take over my grandfather’s physically demanding, struggling business after my grandfather died suddenly.
This is a call to action. Sit down with a pad and a pen, or at your computer, and start making your disaster list now. Your family will thank you for it.
Feel free to post any suggestions you might have to add to this disaster plan for small business owners. What would your family need to know in the event of an emergency?