Joe Augustine, owner of JFA Architecture in Wyncote, Pa., calls his emergency plan a “Postmortem Checklist,” somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But as a sole proprietor, he thought about how his wife—who’s not involved in the business at all—would deal with his business if something happened to him.
“Every once in a while, you hear stories about someone dying and who’s left holding the bag,” Augustine says. “I don’t obsess over it; I just want my family to be taken care of.”
A storage space in the cloud
In early December 2011, Joe Augustine, owner of JFA Architecture, had a computer virus that circumvented his North 360 anti-virus software. The entire operating system had to be reinstalled, which also meant that Augustine would lose all his files.
Except he did not, because he backs up his files to an online service called Carbonite. For about $50 to $60 per computer, he gets unlimited storage space for his data. The program runs quietly in the background, monitoring the status of designated files and folders. Modified data is encrypted and sent to the remote service on a continual basis, without any need for Augustine to initiate the process.—Nikki Golden
The three-page outline was put together by Augustine analyzing his business and ll the things that would need to happen, including who someone would contact, if the business were to close. This outline includes a pretty extensive list of the various contacts, with account numbers and additional information, if necessary. This list includes:
- Business insurance agent
- Business health insurance (with a reminder to convert the family to private health insurance)
- Life insurance
- The company through which he leases computers
- Architectural licensing boards
- Associations (like NARI) and groups such as the school board on which Augustine serves
- Business associates
- Current clients
- Social security
- Personal creditors
- Business credit cards
Augustine also co-owns a kitchen and bath company with fellow NARI member Joe Schwartz. This “Postmortem Checklist” also contains information on that, such as where to find the operator and buyout agreements and the layer who would handle that.
This checklist also includes where to find the already prepared notification letter to send out with reference as to who will be contacting current clients to finish the project. Augustine has what he calls a gentleman’s agreement with a close friend who is also an architect and a sole proprietor in a neighboring town.
“When I market the company, I tend to have a habit of using words like we and us, not me and I,” Augustine says. “Prospective clients get the impression that the company has a lot of people in it. The question has come up before, from a client, of what would happen to their project if I died. This started me thinking about what would happen.”
Augustine approached his friend and asked him if he had anything in place, which he did not. So they decided they would help each other. The two informally go over what projects they have in the pipeline on a quarterly basis.
There’s also a section on the checklist that covers a final message to post on the company’s Website and social media pages for a period of time before turning them off.
Thinking about a disaster or your own demise probably doesn’t top your to-do list, but having a plan in place that covers emergency situations, which are an inevitable part of life, will ensure that your business is prepared—and continues to run.—Nikki Golden
Read the other two stories in the series: