And after you?
It is the beginning of a new year and it is a time to look forward, to think about who is going to provide ownership and management of the business in the future. Everyone in a key position should be thinking about this so that operations will continue without great disruption in the case of any unexpected event.
I attended a seminar a few years ago and the leader opened the program with this question: "What would happen if you did not make it home from this seminar?" It was a thought provoking question and I did not hear the next few things that she said as I thought about the answer to that question. I concluded that not too much bad would happen, but if my wife did not make it home from grocery shopping I would be in a world of hurt. She basically ran the house, paid the bills, etc. I did not even know where our safety deposit box was or if we even had one, or what might be in it. Not good. I made a mental note to correct all of that when (or if) I made it home.
No one wants to think about their mortality, but it is important to do so. I've had a lot of clients respond "Well, IF I were to die......." and I hated to be the one to tell them there was no "if," but only a question of "when." I did make it home from that seminar, but that is beside the point. The fact is that I might not have, and I needed to think about the consequences to those that would be left behind.
Two aspects of succession planning are very important to the ongoing success of any business; management succession and ownership succession. They may or may not be the same, and all critical positions in the company should have some sort of succession plan for the current person in that job; short term, intermediate term, and long term. Everyone should be looking over their shoulder to see if anyone is coming along behind them. It is not meant as any kind of implication about the job they are doing, it is simply smart business planning. Those of you who own a business should ask all of your key employees to tell you who they think are possible successors. If the answer is "no one" then put a plan together to rectify that.
The ultimate result of my thinking about all of this was the drafting of the "Left Behind List." A complete listing and description of all that we owned and where it was, how to access it, who to call, etc. in the case that something unexpected happened to me or my wife. My kids have a copy. Click on the link below to download a copy and make a pledge to yourself to fill it out for the benefit of those that are left behind.
Then put a note on your calendar for this time next year to take it out and update it if necessary. If you haven't updated your Will in a few years make a note to do that as well. The tax laws have changed considerably.
Your employees and family will be grateful if you take the time now to provide as best you can for any contingency, and the smooth continuity of the business.
And please drive carefully going home tonight!