Morbid reflection

Departments - Editor's Insight

April 9, 2014
Chuck Bowen
Editor's Notebook
Chuck Bowen

You will not live forever. None of us will. Before you get too excited, this is not a column about living each day like it’s your last. It’s a column about taking some time to sit down and think about what will happen to the people you love and the people you support when you’re not around anymore.

But this couldn’t happen to you, right?

Last summer, a very large landscape company in Colorado went bankrupt after the sudden death of its founder. This was an $18 million company with hundreds of employees and no plan in place to handle operations if the owner wasn’t around. They just sold off the last of the equipment in March to help settle more than $2 million in debt.

Now is the time of year when you and your crews get into full swing. That morning roll out is exciting and you’re finally able to start executing the plans you’ve been setting up all winter. It’s fun, and somewhat relieving, to get caught up in the day-to-day of that blocking and tackling.

But you still need to keep your eye on the horizon. So many companies are the owner’s baby – you’re the top (or only) salesman, you’re the key decision maker and the company is the primary source of income for you and your family.

But what happens when you aren’t around? I don’t mean for a vacation or a conference. I mean what happens if you get sick and you need to take an extended leave? What if, God forbid, you get hit by a bus?

I sat down with Gary Mallory, the owner of Heads Up Landscape Contractors in Albuquerque, N.M., a while back and he explained that he sits down every year to outline his financial and business lives.

Gary started this practice when his kids were young, and he asked them about his business. “I was surprised to find out that they thought I had a 50-50 partner. They did not know if we owned or leased our satellite office. They did not know that we had started doing residential install work,” he said.

Every January he and his wife, Thoula, write down information about their bank accounts, loan officers, safety deposit boxes as well as the names and phone numbers of their lawyer and estate planning adviser, and a brief overview of the business. So, if something happens, their family knows what pieces to pick up.

This month’s cover story is scary, and maybe a bit morbid, but it’s very important. Now is the time to start thinking about what’s going to happen to your family and your business and your employees when you’re not around anymore.

– Chuck Bowen