Brian Tracy, the famous sales trainer, has a story that he tells about the importance of great questions. Brian was having a meeting with a life insurance salesman who asked if he had enough life insurance. Since he did not want to deal with this man, Brian assured him he did have enough insurance. As he was about to finish the meeting, the salesman asked Brian the question,“How long will you be dead for? Because” he went on, “with the life insurance policy that you currently have, you are going to need to come back to life after six months to help pay the family bills….”
The reason I bring this up has nothing to do with life insurance, although especially in the early stages of a retailer’s lifetime, life insurance might be a good bet. Unfortunately, most people in our industry don’t consider their untimely death. None of us want an early expiry date, and while we might hope to live to a ripe old age having accomplished all of our objectives, life has a funny way of throwing a wrench into the best laid plans of mice and men.
Often, I have clients who want to work with me because they are preparing for their exit from the business. Some have the foresight to make plans when they hear they have an illness or are approaching retirement age. Unfortunately for some business owners, they don’t have the right plans in place when they die and as a result, there is no one to help their family or employees negotiate through the traumatic days that follow the loss of an owner or founder.
So, what would happen if your staff woke up one morning and discovered that you have died? Hopefully they will miss you and shed some tears, which means that you probably made a difference in their lives. However, without a plan for emergencies, like death or even the disability of an owner or founder, companies that were once going concerns, stumble and begin the downward slide into oblivion. In the following weeks and months – as the family is grieving – it becomes apparent that the vision, direction and strategy that the owner brought is missing . Often key employees who doubt the future without a leader jump ship. Without leadership, many businesses and their employees become paralyzed by indecision. In either case, the future is often bleak for the future of the store.
While a life insurance policy might protect your family from some of the financial losses of your income, does it protect them from the financial liability of your businesses? To ensure that your business can survive you, there are a number of things that you might do.
1) Writing down a plan for the worst-case scenarios and discussing them with key staff members.
2) Talking to trusted advisors including lawyers, accountants or mentors, about what your plans for the business are.
3) Discussing or documenting some options for transitioning the ownership of your business should disaster hit such as:
• who should your management team talk to?
• will they need a business coach or fractional CEO to come in and help?
• what should they expect for leadership from your family?
• how would you value the store if it needs to be sold?
• what happens if they can’t sell the store?
• how should they deal with family?
While the answers to these questions might be included in your will, having backup documentation in your operations manual or company safe, might be a great start as well.
Not many people come back to life after being dead! Chances are you won’t either. If you want to rest in peace before and after you die, it might make sense to come up with some concrete plans that position your business for the benefit of your family and employees long after your untimely departure.
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