Are you ready?

by Kate on September 10, 2011

How much time have you got? What would happen to your business if something happened to you? How would your family respond?

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of 3,000 people losing their lives in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre. On a smaller scale, I read this week about David Reichenberg, a franchise owner in the USA who lost his life to save two others. Despite our advanced technology, lives are disturbed or cut short through cancer and car accidents and in countless other ways.

Hopefully you’ll live a long and health life and you will have plenty of time. But these stark reminders are important as they cause us to ask “Am I ready?”

For business leaders, realisation of their mortality reminds of an extra layer of things to consider in addition to family concerns.

Here are some suggestions for action, in case you want to do more than think. Perhaps they might form part of an agenda for an annual review.

Review your financial position

Once a year, review your net worth (the difference between what you own and what you owe). This is applicable for your business and personal situation. It’s a reality check for whether you are building value. Money isn’t everything, but we need to fund our lives and retirement. This means building wealth over our lifetime, not just hoping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Review your will and related documents

Changes to personal and business circumstances, relationships and divorce are triggers for updating your will. It’s also important to make arrangements in case you are unable to make decisions for yourself, and to deal with financial affairs in case of incapacity.

Consider your succession plan

Succession planning is a classic ‘leave it for later’ item, but ‘later’ sometimes comes sooner than we hoped. The statement “I plan to sell my business for [insert big number] in the future” is not a plan. Even if you do plan to sell, it’s possible that something will happen before that occurs. What then?

Different perspectives of stakeholders, including family members can lead to conflict and business failure. Difficulties can be minimised through family meetings to agree a plan, setting up necessary legal framework and establishing a structure for reporting and accountability. You can find a plain-english summary of key points here.

Assess operational risks

Do your systems enable the business be able to operate effectively if you (or a key employee) were do die, become disabled or sick? A great start is to write down key procedures and have financial records in good order as this makes it easier to cope with sudden change. Keyperson and other insurance options can be a help in some circumstances.

How are you leading and living?

Here are some other things to think about:

  • What important things am I putting off?
  • What can I do to strengthen my relationships?
  • How would I like to be remembered? Am I leading and living that way?
  • Having thought about this, what action will I take now?

These things fall into the category important but (thankfully) mostly not urgent. They rightly don’t have our attention on a daily basis. But a little time invested can reduce the anxiousness we feel when we know all is not in order – and bring peace of mind to those we care about.

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