Productivity

How To Prepare For The Unexpected ft. Mary Beth Simon

 October 11, 2023

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

No one likes to think about a sudden, lifechanging event. But if the unexpected DID happen, are you prepared? Join me, Uriah Guilford, and my guest, Mary Beth Simon, as we discuss this uncomfortable but vital topic. Click to listen now!

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How to protect things in your personal life
  • How to protect things in your business life
  • How to create a basic business continuance plan

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Niche Partnership Consulting
The Owner's Freedom Framework

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Marybeth, welcome to the podcast.

Mary Beth
Thank you so much, Uriah. It's a pleasure to be here.

Uriah
Awesome. I'm genuinely happy to be talking to you today and a little bit scared because I am a person that needs your services. I'm just going to say that right at the front. But I'm glad that we're talking about the topics that we're covering because I know that probably a high percentage of folks listening to this right now are in the same position as I am. Is that fair?

Mary Beth
Yeah. I think awareness is usually the first step. Then once you hear the information, then it gnaws away at you in the back of your mind until you.

Uriah
Do something. In the best possible way, yes. Yes. The first question that's important to me that I want to ask you is this. Is the correct pronunciation niche or niche? Because that's in your business name. Tell me.

Mary Beth
I usually say niche.

Uriah
Do you? Okay.

Mary Beth
Yeah.

Uriah
I think I do too. It sounds more sophisticated.

Mary Beth
Yeah. I guess since my last name is spelled like Simon, but I say Simone, it goes with the whole.

Uriah
That makes sense. I don't know what the origin of that last name is, but niche sounds to me like French.

Mary Beth
It does.

Uriah
We'll go with that. Good. I'm curious for the folks who don't know who you are, if you could share about your story a little bit and about your company, Niche, partnership counseling.

Mary Beth
Consulting rather. Yeah. I have a background in corporate financial services. I worked for Vancard for over 30 years in banking before that. When I was getting ready to retire, I knew that I wanted to have my own consulting practice and I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. And at the same time, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she had retired two years before me from Vancard. And of course, when you hear those words, it's like, that's the worst possible diagnosis. But the doctors were really optimistic, and it was operable, so she was optimistic. But she asked me if she didn't survive, would I be willing to help her husband navigate the finances? We both had tech backgrounds. We were project and program managers. He didn't use a cell phone or a computer.

Uriah
Oh, my goodness.

Mary Beth
Okay. Yeah. He was a little bit older than her. I said yes. I knew that it would be a challenge for him to do what she does. She handled all the investing and handled all of the finances. And she did pass away. I ended up spending six months working with her husband while I was working full-time trying to help him navigate this transition. And the one thing that didn't happen is I had asked my friend to show me what was going on in their life, in their financial life, and that seemed like a step too far. It would be like admitting that it might not work out.

Uriah
For her. Literally opening the books, right? Yeah.

Mary Beth
We never got to do that. I was going blind through everything. I was searching her computer and looking for information, which she did have some information there that I was able to use. But it made me realize that as organized as all of us are, that we all could do a better job preparing for the unexpected. And especially then you layer on having a business. So it's... I find quite often that business owners also manage a lot of the information in the home, whether it be the investing or other aspects. When that person is out of the game, it's very challenging if they don't have a plan in place and if no one's prepared to step in.

Uriah
That's a terrible scenario to find yourself in as a loved one or even a friend in that position. I can't even imagine. I'm in a phase of life where my friends and myself, we are taking care of aging parents and having some of those conversations and even with professional colleagues about these types of things. Because when you have that experience in your personal life, then it brings it top of mind. Then I'm asking my friends, Hey, do you have a trust? Do you have a plan for your business? And those kinds of things. I don't know. Do you have any statistics or just generalized numbers on the number of people that are prepared for this type of thing versus not prepared? Is there any data in that?

Mary Beth
Yeah. The only data that I have been able to locate is data around estate planning and will preparation. Unfortunately, less than 50% of Americans even have a basic will in place. And millennials are doing a much better job at being prepared from an estate planning perspective. That really started during the pandemic, which was really surprising. Interesting. Okay. There are a lot of people who think that it doesn't apply to them, that it's not that complicated, that they don't have that much money, all kinds of different excuses, or they are afraid of taking that step.

Uriah
It's not easy. Unfortunately, we have a culture around money and death that make these conversations incredibly complicated and difficult to have. A lot of us don't want to think about maybe either of those things in the present, much less about the future.

Mary Beth
Right. I would suggest that I often see that people need their contingency plan even for just an unexpected medical event or to be able to take an extended vacation. It helps people reassess who's doing what in the business, especially in a larger group practice; if you are interested in delegating more, then it gives you perspective, and it gives you a process that you can use to get people up to speed to step in for you. And when I'm working with people, it never fails that someone in the family becomes ill and someone needs to step away and help out this other person. When you think of that as a business owner, like if you have to go spend time with your parents or a family member because of something happening, are you able to quickly step away from your business?

Uriah
Definitely. I love that on your website, you talk about how your mission is to help business owners keep money flowing into their business while they're away. Whether that's for pleasure or for, let's say, caretaking for an elderly family member or even a spouse or any situation. That's right. Yeah.

Mary Beth
That's right. Or a child. We don't know how we're going to need to use this. And especially with therapists, with solar practices and group practices, the therapist often has a goal of having that business provide for their family, whether the therapist is there or not. And for many people, it is a significant asset that they hope that one day will be able to be sold. They want that to happen whether they're there or not, and they want their family to be taken care of. They do want the bills to continue to be paid. They do want the business to stay healthy and thriving.

Uriah
But that doesn't happen if you just wish it, does it? That's right. It doesn't happen. I wish it did.

Mary Beth
Yeah. Unfortunately, it could really go the other direction within a couple weeks or a couple of months.

Uriah
You never know. You literally never know. For folks listening to this and they hear contingency planning and they think they know what it means, but they're not sure, can you lay that out for us and how that applies to therapists?

Mary Beth
Yeah, sure. The only reason that we don't already have one in place is that you can't really Google it and get a roadmap for how to do it. Is that right? Okay. The way that I work with people, I offer three different types of contingency plans, and often I recommend to people to start with their personal life, just you as a human being. That would involve having your estate plan in good order. A lot of people who work with me don't have anything in place when we start working together, so it might mean connecting them with an attorney resource. For your personal life, that's getting all of your essential information together. That includes banking, credit cards, real estate, investments, vehicle information. It's a laundry list of information. During the personal contingency planning phase, we also address what is your password management strategy? Yes. Do you use an online password manager? Are you willing to?

Uriah
And so if it- That's a critical component, isn't it?

Mary Beth
It is… Our digital life is significant. It's also important to realize that our phone is a big part of that digital existence. You want to make sure that your second-in-command can unlock your phone and have access to it if something happens to you. Password management is a significant aspect of it. Often people will, especially for therapy practice owners, they will choose to go with something like LastPass for their personal life and for their business so that they have all of the information basically in one resource. After the personal contingency plan is together, then the next step is to move on to the business contingency plan. That is similar to preparing the personal contingency plan, but it's focused on all of the assets related to your business. From the estate planning perspective, this is where we look to layer in a professional will and a professional power of attorney. So if you have one-on-one therapy clients, it's advisable that you have a professional will so that someone else is authorized to have contact with them to access their records to make a warm referral in the event that you're no longer able to provide services to them. It includes information about all of the devices and hardware, memberships and subscriptions related to the business, which is a great resource for insurance purposes, if there was any theft or a loss, and it's a great resource to review for cost savings on an annual basis. Test are these subscriptions - That are the benefits. Yeah. Right. People typically find money while they're doing this process. That's the business contingency plan. Then the third type of plan is a business continuum playbook. This is an inventory of the business owner's roles and responsibilities from daily through annually. We map that out and then assess whether there are standard operating procedures in place for those roles that only the business owner performs and if they need to be documented, then I interview the client and document it for them, which that technique is a great… Like if you have a business bestie or you have an assistant that you can work with to interview you on the steps of the process and document it for you, and then it's easier for you to review than to sit down and do the whole documentation yourself. Those are the three types of plans.

Uriah
Thank you for that overview. That was super helpful. I remember years ago, I was so proud of myself because I got my professional will done. I had two potential executors. So if one wasn't available, the other one could step in. Excellent. It was just me. I had a solo practice, so it was actually quite easy. I did and still do use Last Pass, so that part was pretty straightforward. Then I started a group practice in 2015. Guess what I still have today? A solo practice professional will that is completely not applicable to my situation. I'm like, If I was to get hit by a bus, God forbid, I'm not in a great position because my family, my wife specifically, would be trying to figure out what to do. I do have a second in command in my practice, which I'm very fortunate to have an executive director, but the truth is she doesn't have access to everything that she would need in the event of something happening. Yeah, I'm not well prepared for all things.

Mary Beth
Yeah. It's great to just take stock of what the current state is and then just take incremental steps to start to make progress because it can be overwhelming when you start to think about it. But you do have a lot in place, so it's not like starting from the beginning.

Uriah
Definitely. I agree. There's this concept that I heard years ago from somebody I used to listen to a lot, and they call it the love drawer. You may have heard this. You probably have. But the idea was that you take all the documents related to retirement plans, health insurance, car insurance, every necessary document and you put it in one place could be a drawer, doesn't have to be a drawer. It doesn't have to bedrawer. It's called the love drawer because you're doing that intentionally and proactively for your loved ones in the event of something happening to you so they have access to know exactly how to get to the savings accounts and all the things. I like that idea very much. I'm thinking of a company that I've seen their ads quite a bit and I almost purchased their product, but it's some secure online repository that keeps all the things that you just mentioned in one place secure online. Have you heard of that?

Mary Beth
Yes.

Uriah
The name escapes me. I'm not trying to promote them necessarily, but yeah.

Mary Beth
Yeah, it escapes me right now. But that is another option. That is 100% online. In order to have your plan completely online, first, you need to be comfortable with having your personally identifiable information available online. It is convenient, at least for the person who is setting up the process. If you decide that you want to put your whole plan online, that may be a matter of convenience for you. I can say that a lot of financial planners offer that service. I think it's EverPlan.

Uriah
Okay.

Mary Beth
It might be EverPlan, and I believe they're out of New York. A lot of financial planners offer that as one of their perks for using their services, and they have said to me that their clients do not complete their plans. Interesting. Because they need assistance, they get stuck in maybe potentially the uploading part, the organization, or even just getting started. What's important when it comes to your plan is that it's something that you are able to keep up to date and that it's easy for your second and command to use. That would go for your password management system too. It has to be good for you, but it also needs to be good for your second and command because that really is the end goal.

Uriah
That's a really good point. I'm thinking about my wife and in our relationship and in our family. I'm the tech support. Whatever the system is that we create, it needs to be not stressful for her to utilize.

Mary Beth
Right.

Uriah
I have a practical logistical question. If somebody doesn't want to put their information in some supposedly secure repository, does that just look like collecting the documents, printing documents, putting them in a folder and putting them in a safe and then giving somebody the combination? Is that the idea? Yeah.

Mary Beth
It is basically the idea. The system that I have created is I use binders for each of the plans. Often the personal contingency plan ends up being in two binders because there's just so much information when you're adding in birth certificates and insurance policies and everything. For most families, it's two binders. Then the business contingency plan typically ends up to be one binder. It has step-by-step information around narratives for banking, for the bank account. It has your bank statements in there so that you can see all of the information and a narrative about how you move money. A lot of therapists use profit first. There are pretty extensive narratives in the business contingency plan about that. Then for the business contingency playbook, which is the SOPs and the business owner responsibilities, most people store that completely online. We created in Google Drive. Because you'll use it in your business, it's not really personal PII in there. It's all just completely online. For the binders, they are stored in a fireproof, waterproof safe. That's what I recommend.

Uriah
Perfect. That makes sense. Yeah.

Mary Beth
Those details are important. Then it's easy for your second in command to take it out, look at it, even though a lot of everything is online.

Uriah
I like that very much. Thank you for walking me through this. I don't know if you can see here, but I'm taking lots of notes. It's good. Because I'm like, Okay, I have two businesses, and obviously I've got a personal life that needs to be taken care of two kids as well, so I want to make sure that I'm being thoughtful and proactive and prepared for all these kinds of things. It feels very, very important, but it's not the thing that I think about necessarily on a Monday morning at 10 o'clock when I'm in the middle of my work day, right?

Mary Beth
Yeah, exactly. I think for most people, the best way to approach it is just to approach it like a project and put some time on the calendar. When I work with people, we often do three months together, so four weeks for each plan. You can use that as a guide for your sofa how long it will take. Allocate about a month for each effort. The biggest challenge is really to not get distracted because it's not exciting work. It's important work.

Uriah
It's homework, right?

Mary Beth
It is homework.

Uriah
It is. I know I should do this, but I really don't want to. I'd rather watch Netflix.

Mary Beth
It's all the shoulds. It's important that you have some type of reward or carrot for doing the work that you're doing. Think of ahead about what that will be.

Uriah
Yeah. So a question about this. If somebody's listening to this and they're like, okay, I know 100 % I don't have this. I need this. Personal and professional contingency plans. What would you say to them when they're trying to decide to: should I take on this project myself or should I hire an expert like Marybeth to walk me through it? How should they make that decision?

Mary Beth
Yeah. So all of this can certainly be done on your own. And I do have a lot of resources on my website too, for guidance. The challenge is when you have a guide to walk you through, it goes faster. You have a partner who may be doing some of the legwork and research. When it comes to the business continuum's playbook, I take all the homework, I'm doing all the documentation, and then.

Uriah
Serving it up to- Delegate, outsource.

Mary Beth
Could help, yes. Yes. I talk to the client to review for accuracy. During the personal and the business contingency plans, there is homework for the client. But I think the benefit of having a guide is having a process, having the binders delivered to you with all of the sections that we've already discussed that are specific to you, so it's all customized to you, and the information is provided or requested of you in bite-size-size pieces so that you're not as overwhelmed as trying to figure it out. But it certainly can be done. Every person can do this on their own. Sure.

Uriah
I absolutely love a process or a good framework and a guide of some sort, so that's really helpful. I find, too, a lot of times the value for me in working with experts is that the specific questions that come up that I don't know the answer to, and it would probably take me quite a while to find it. Let's say I was working with you. I could just say, Marybeth, here's the details. What do I do or what should I think about? And then you can give me that information. It's faster, right? It is faster. And more probably gets done better as well.

Mary Beth
Yes. I think that you get a lot of information and tips along the way that you might have to figure out on your own. So it definitely is faster and it is more comprehensive. And then we also cover the process of how to train your second-in-command because it's great to have the information together or to have that love drawer like you were talking about. But we don't know how effective it is until we start to review it with your second in command, and you have an opportunity for that back and forth where your wife might say, I do not understand what this is. And my husband will say to me like, You need to slow down because I don't know what you're... Because it's our way of working. It's all the information is in our heads and we need to convey it.

Uriah
Definitely. Just to make a point of clarification, when you say second-in-command, that could either be a spouse or an executive director in the business, or it could be anybody who is in charge of taking that plan and implementing it. Yes?

Mary Beth
Yeah. And it might be more than one person. Often with group practice owners, their spouse might be their second-in-command for their personal life. And when it comes to the practice because of licensing requirements and things like that, the spouse cannot be the only person who is the second-in-command. I often suggest that a board of directors type of approach may work better for the group practice where you have clinical directors who are there to give important input, bookkeepers, CFO, all of those different resources who might give information to the spouse and the spouse would make the final decision from a financial perspective and maybe work with the attorneys and things like that.

Uriah
That definitely makes sense. Have you seen it work well, or at least is it a good idea potentially to make the executor or second-in-command another group practice owner who's a close friend because they know the ins and outs of a group practice, or is that not a great idea?

Mary Beth
Well, it's definitely a solid idea for the second-in-command for the practice. There is an opportunity there for some collaboration. If I'm going to be second-in-command for you, will you be second-in-command for me? Then you develop this shared language where you're talking about this information freely and keeping each other up to speed. When one person has this aha moment, they're able to share it with the other and you stay on the same page and you're speaking the same language basically about the business. That person may be an excellent choice for being the executive of your professional will and your second in command in the business.

Uriah
That makes sense. That's probably harder to come about, though, because what are the odds that you have group practice and friends that you know and trust enough to do that? I do, and I'm fortunate to have that, but maybe not everybody.

Mary Beth
And are they willing to take on that role? It's important that people think about, in the worst-case scenario, that person will need to be available for whatever taking the next steps in the practice, dissolving the practice, selling the practice, all of that, which can be a significant demand. Not everyone would say yes to that.

Uriah
It's a big ask.

Mary Beth
Yeah.

Uriah
I remember when I was putting together my professional will for my solo practice, and I asked one of my colleagues who happened to be in the same suite as me, and we'd known each other for a while, and he initially said no. I respected that because I know it is a lot to ask, even if it's a paid position or even if there's like a stipend or whatever you call it. Then he actually ended up changing his mind and said yes, which was fine. Either that was okay, but it is important to have people that you can ask that question to because I'm sure some people get in the position where they're like, This is a great idea, but who can this be? Maybe they don't have a spouse.

Mary Beth
We spend a lot of time figuring this out. There are a lot of different possibilities that can be explored, but it isn't always easy for everybody to say who that person is.

Uriah
Definitely, yeah, that's for sure. Well, I'm thinking about my plan and what I'm going to do next. Yeah. For me, it does start with the estate plan because we have a will, but what we want and what we need is a living trust. I'm going to do that very shortly, probably in a month or so. Get that sorted away.

Mary Beth
That's great. Then when you do that, Yorah, you just want to make sure that everything is connected. We start with the estate plan for the family and make sure that the way that the group practice and the businesses are registered flow into the estate plan and that your wife is authorized to make the decisions and sell if needed or whatever needs to happen.

Uriah
Yeah, there's genuinely a lot to think about. The one thing I know I have to do also is that I need to go to the bank and make sure that she's also a signer on all of my business accounts, like all 1,400 of them because I have profit first for two businesses.

Mary Beth
Exactly. That's part of the assessment of the bank accounts. People say, Well, why am I printing out the statements for this? Well, it's important to have to see how the accounts are registered and then verify that the authorized signers that you want are there. I even had a business owner who, when they did that step, they found out that somebody who worked for them years ago was still listed as an authorized signer on their business bank account. Oh, my goodness. It's a worthwhile.

Uriah
Step to take. I saw that on your website. You put that on your website, Barry.

Mary Beth
That was smart. Yeah, I did.

Uriah
I.

Mary Beth
Was like, Oh, no. My sales coach said, You better put this at the top.

Uriah
Because it's so specific. It's like, Oh, no. Do I have that? What else have I done that I forgot about that I need to...

Mary Beth
It happens. We're moving so fast and business owners are just looking forward.

Uriah
It's so true. For the people listening to this who want a next step to learn from you and potentially work with you, what would you recommend?

Mary Beth
Yeah. I have a free course for creating SOPs for business owners. I'd like to share that with your audience. That's available at niche-partnership-consulting. Net/productive. That's one option. I'm also very active on LinkedIn and would love to connect with anyone who wants to connect there.

Uriah
That's wonderful. Thanks for creating that. My audience and myself included love all things SOPs.

Mary Beth
Yeah.

Uriah
I mean, who doesn't love a good system procedure or policy.

Mary Beth
Once it's done. That's right. It has some hacks in there to make it a little bit easier. You could sign up for it and give the information to your administrative assistant and have them follow it and do the interviewing for you.

Uriah
Yeah, I think I'm thinking through this. I don't want to do it all myself. I'm very tempted to work with you, so I might reach out. But also it makes sense for me, to use my personal assistant to help with this process. That could be a really good idea.

Mary Beth
Yeah. That is not uncommon for me to work with a business owner and their assistant because of the homework aspect of it.

Uriah
Right.

Mary Beth
That's great. Yeah.

Uriah
So good. Thank you for being on the podcast. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful wisdom. Honestly, thank you for what you do. It came about because of this story, this personal experience, and then you're doing this because it matters to you. I just know you've helped a lot of folks, and you continue to do so, so I appreciate that.

Mary Beth
Thank you so much, Uriah. I really enjoy the work and feel like even just when somebody creates their will, it makes the world a better place.

Uriah
Definitely. Because it affects so many people.

Mary Beth
Potentially down.

Uriah
The line, right?

Mary Beth
It does. Yeah, it does.

Uriah
All right, well, take care and have a good day.

Mary Beth
Yeah, thank you so much. You too.

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Uriah Guilford, MFT


Uriah is a group practice owner and the creator of Productive Therapist. He is a technology nerd, a minimalist travel packer, a rock drummer and business development enthusiast.

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