FAMILY DYNAMICS / GOVERNANCE
Picture this. You are a small business owner and you’ve been happily running your business with a group of dedicated employees for the last decade. All of a sudden, tragedy strikes in your family. You or a loved one is rushed to the hospital. How does the business continue running? Who will your employees look to for answers? What will happen to the business in your absence?
My hope is that no business owner ever has to worry about such a situation, but the reality is that many businesses are (or will be at some point) affected by such and event. The good news is that if your business created an Emergency Management Plan (EMP) before tragedy struck, the answers to all of those concerning questions about the business would be easily found by employees, and it would be (mostly) business as usual while you take care of yourself and your family.
An Emergency Management Plan is just that. A plan that details what needs to happen in the business if there is an emergency that takes the owner or other key leaders away from the organization for an extended time. It should be documented and accessible to your leadership team, so when an emergency does happen, the plan can be put into effect immediately.
To get you started, I’ve listed a few “emergency action items” that the EMP should include:
1. Contacting the business’ trusted advisors
List the organization’s trusted advisors and how to contact them. This may include your Business Attorney, Accountant, Board for Advisors, and any other key strategic partners that should be contacted if the owner is unable to lead.
2. Notify commercial banker
This would pertain to any business that has any outstanding business loans in order to ensure that loan payment obligations are being met. Another thing to consider… does anyone else besides the owner have the authority for signing checks or viewing important legal documents?
3. Notify any key clients or customers
It is crucial to give the clients a heads up that while there has been an emergency, operations will continue. This eliminates any assumptions that the clients may make about the organization and its future. It also helps to manage expectations of clients in terms of communication and interaction with key leaders.
4. Redistribute work to remaining leaders in the organization
With a good emergency management plan, it should be business as usual even with the owner/key leaders away from the business. Advanced determination of how work is redistributed will allow for business operations to continue with a minimum number of hiccups. Be sure to clearly indicate who will be accountable for the redistributed work and ensure that accountability is communicated and understood.
5. Indicate location of important documents. This could include documents such as shareholder agreements, Board of Advisors contact information, and the organization’s strategic plan.
While I hope the Emergency Management Plan never has to be used, it provides needed solace for business owners, family members and employees just knowing that it exists. And the best way to test your newly created EMP? Take an extended vacation – a month is ideal – and unplug from the business. An test run like this will help you see where the gaps are and allow you the ability to address them before it is truly an emergency.
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