You’ve said it to yourself a hundred times–”What would happen to my department/company/family if I got hit by a bus?” Usually, you decide you don’t need an answer right now. It’s a good question to ask, particularly if you are the only one in your business, if you have a large number of small clients, and if you have a blog, a website, and other online tools that help you generate business. Your bus factor is high if no one else has access to the sites, and it’s even higher if your friends and family don’t know how your business works.
Before you brush off the question because if you die your worries are over, consider the consequences of a heart attack, an accident, or
the necessity of being taken to a hospital where you can’t get in touch with your clients–but would like to keep your business open?
So, what would your business do if you got hit by a bus? Let’s take a look at some practical steps if this does happen. Is there someone who knows your passcodes, your clients contact numbers, your blog names and access codes? If not, and you have a high bus factor, now is the time to start planning.
Here’s a check list to get you started:
–Consolidate a list of clients. This doesn’t have to be a complicated spread sheet, it can be as simple as using your email address book and create a folder called “1 Emergency List” These are the clients that would need to know fast if you were not going to show up to provide the service or deliver a product as promised. Putting the “1″ in front of it puts it at the top of all your folders and easy to find. These clients should receive a phone call.
Create a “2 Emergency list” of clients with whom you work regularly, but who would not be concerned (or angry) if they didn’t hear from you this week. These clients can receive an email.
–Create a document file with the same name and leave it on your desktop. Inside is a document that contains the text to an email for your clients. You can make one for an emergency delay, and one in case of death. This is not as morbid as you think. You can say nice things about yourself to your clients. Keep them in separate files, clearly marked, so the person who handles this will be able to tell the messages apart and send the right one. There should also be a contact list of people who should be phoned–close friends, family, so they will hear information at the same time and not find out through a third party.
You’ll want to create a blog post that announces what will happen to your blog, as well as an announcement to your social networking list. This will trigger a flood of emails, so give an email address that someone else will handle for you.
–Pick a trusted partner: a spouse, a close friend who knows your business. This person should have a key to your office (or house) and know the password for your computer. This is someone you trust enough not to snoop through your files because they have the ability to do so. If you are concerned, you can leave the key with one person and the password with another, so they need to be together to notify your clients. This is particularly useful if both are close–they can provide support for each other to do this difficult task.
–Put the name and number of this person in your phone in your favorites list. Also put their name and contact information under your business name, using “emergency contact” as an identifier and under Emergency Contact in your phone directory. Using ” 1 Emergency Contact” in your favorites list puts it at the top. If you have your phone when you are struck, you don’t need a lot of time to find the emergency contact, which is a good idea all the way around. Police and emergency workers generally don’t look for “emergency” in your phone, they look at the favorites list and start calling.
–Schedule some time in the next month to create a list of who can take over your clients, what they should say, and important details of the clients. If you have a succession plan, this is the place to store it. Include the location of your will, and what people need to know before your will is made public–freeze your credit card accounts and bank account.
All of this is work, but it’s not creepy or gruesome. You’ll go through your client lists and discover clients you need to renew a relationship with and maybe generate more business. Lowering your bus factor number also lowers your stress level, making it more likely that you will not need the information.
Note: This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Don Slattery, who died unexpectedly in his sleep. Don’s death was a blessing for him and hard for those of us who loved him and miss him and feel guilty for wondering how in the hell we are going to get the rest of the office space built out. Only Don had the plans, and they were in his head.
–You’ll find more and different information on Beth Barany’s blog. We planned it that way.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who misses her friend Don.