In today’s fast paced world anything can happen. Ask yourself, if you’re the leading force in your small business, could the company survive if you’re not around? While many business owners would agree that time is our most valuable asset, I’m going to suggest that your most valuable asset is really your health. If the business can’t function without you, not only are your sales in trouble but the entire business is at risk.
Recently, I spoke with Anita T. Conner who decided by the time she turned thirty she would become her own boss. Anita’s business was on the fast track, she was becoming known in the community and the client base was growing. Her daughter had just graduated with a degree in accounting from Howard University and decided to join the business. They were celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary with eight staff members when Anita found a lump on her breast that for two years was undiagnosed.
Eventually, she saw a doctor that gave her a biopsy and determined that she had advanced stage breast cancer. He told her to prepare her family for the worst. She never stopped working “I had to keep busy and keep working to the extent that I could, when I wasn’t in the hospital. I had to live like I was going to live and started doing the things that were on my wish list like starting a non-profit.” Anita says it was the best two years that they had in the practice in terms of growth; everyone stepped up and did what they had to do.
She had an aggressive treatment plan including high dose chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and was in isolation at one point. She lost her hair and her nails blackened. It was a long road. Kerri, Anita’s daughter and the family were celebrating her mother’s ten year anniversary of being cancer free when she learned that she now also had an aggressive stage of cancer. At 33 years old she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery to get rid of the 3 masses in her breast. Kerri said it was challenging to share the news with her husband and daughter Madison, who was only two years old.
In addition, to the accounting practice Anita started a non-profit called Praise is the Cure, doing outreach and education to women with a focus on the African-American community. Anita believes “Early detection is the key”. They also have an initiative called Real Men Wear Pink to help men become better caregivers. Today, the firm is still thriving; Anita and Kerri are known as The Tax Divas. “Our story is not special, everyone has a story, we just share our story to uplift others” said Anita Conner.
When I asked Anita and Kerri what advice they would give small businesses to prepare for a health disaster, here’s what they had to say:
- Offer Group Health: When Anita was diagnosed, her company was already offering a quality group health plan to the team. She didn’t have to worry about not getting insurance because of a preexisting condition and even decided to increase the coverage. Anita says that having a group plan, from the insurer’s eyes, mitigates the risk.
- Get Your Affairs in Order: Every small business owner should have a living will and a last will and testament. These legal documents will guide family on how to proceed with your wishes if a scenario arises where they must act on your behalf.
- Plan for Life: Many life insurance companies will charge a premium or simply deny policies for individuals with cancer. The Conners recommend business owners to have life, disability and key man or business overhead insurance in place.
- Create Structure: Anita T. Conner and Associates was able to keep running because there was some basic structure in place. Each team member also stepped up because they knew that the continued success of the firm was in their hands. Basic systems would include methods for contacting and following up with customers, automating billing, and ensuring deadlines are in place to deliver your product or service on time.
- Have a Succession Plan: Every small business owner should be grooming someone to take over. The day-to day of the business should be able to operate without the founder. Creating a turn-key operation is important.
A health disaster can happen to anyone. It could be as common as a car accident or as unique as Conner’s story. Don’t leave the survival of your business to chance. Get a health crisis plan in place so your businesses future is built to last.
“Stethoscope” courtesy of renjith krishnan / www.freedigitalphotos.net