Do you have a backup plan for your business and clients if something happens to you?

WOOHOO in memory of Denai Downs Vaughn

Hey you, small business owner, sole proprietor, one-person business do you have a plan if / when something happens to you? This backup plan and a succession plan are essential and your responsibility as a small business owner. If you are like me, you have your plan all thought up in your head, but nothing documented. It’s time to get busy typing.

First, I want to share a little background on why I am saying this to all of you right now. Recently a young God fearing, beautiful, energetic, successful business woman, Denai Downs Vaughn was in a fatal car accident.  She not only left behind a beautiful little girl and a husband, but a business, a successful BlogTalkRadio show and had an Online Radio Summit planned out and starting very shortly with a colleague, Dale Little. It was a slap in the face for me and many of my friends, which are also many of hers! She was the exact same age as me.

I know, because I am there with you, something happening to you that makes it so you can no longer do business as usual, is a topic no one wants to talk about, think about, etc. However we have to do it! It’s ugly, scary and unpleasant, but it must be do anyway. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a death, as it was in Denai’s case, that makes it so you can no longer work. It can be a heart attack, stroke, or even a loss of limb. As much as we all would like to think we are in control of our fate, we are not.  We can control how we act, drive, the risks we take, etc., but we can’t control weather, tornados, Acts of God, or the actions of others.

I am a small business owner, a sole proprietorship and in many cases, a one-person shop. I do have a team that I bring in on a project-by- project basis, but in general it’s all on me. Every single Tweet, LinkedIn and Faceboook Page update for a client is completed by me.  The blog posts are put up on their websites and published by me. Their email newsletters are drafted and finalized by me.  The logins, passwords and the flow for these accounts are known only by me in most cases.

So what is my plan:

1.  After I complete the setup for a social media client on their accounts I will make sure I give them immediately the websites, logins and passwords for the accounts I created. Print off the logins and passwords and put in my lock box.

2. Backup plan – keep a close friend or relative (my sister in this case) updated on the background about my business. Where it is at growth wise and what kind of services I am doing. She doesn’t necessarily need every detail about who my clients are (she can get this from the lock box and computer records if the times comes where it is necessary), but she needs an understanding of how many clients I have / project scope etc.  (Sis, we are going to need to schedule a monthly meeting I think.)

3. Your team – document who your team is, what kind of information you trust/share with each one, their contact information, what your payment agreement is and the scope of work they complete for you. Print it off and put it in the lock box.

4. Outline – What you do for each client and when do you do it.  Of course I have this and you do to when you submit a proposal to them and get a signed contract back from the client, however you need this accessible easily in case something happens to you.

5. Colleague – You must talk with and designate a trusted professional in your industry with your skills set who can / will finish up the projects for your clients if something was to happen to you.

6. Successor – Is your business going to continue on with another owner if something was to happen to you. Do you want it to continue on? Do you want someone else to use your business name?  You need to document this information carefully and share with the person you designate in item #2.

The person you designate to know your backup plan – item #2 and item #5 the colleague can be the same person, but I don’t necessarily recommend that. You want someone #2 to make sure the colleague #5 is finishing the projects and keeping their commitments.  You might decide two have to colleagues that you designate. One to complete some of the tasks and one to complete the others, or the primary person and the backup person, who knows, something could happen to the first person at the same time as you.

7. Business Records – Document your system for how you keep account of your business expenses. Your spouse or backup plan person, as designated in item #2, will need to be able to organize these records for tax purposes, etc.

8. Business Debts – Document your monthly business expenses, who you pay what and when. Automatic drafts, etc. Your backup plan person will need to get these accounts closed and the automatic drafts turned off or determine if your colleague mentioned in item #5 has these same accounts, so she can finish the scope of work. Obviously, your colleague wouldn’t be able to keep all of the money made from the clients for the projects they complete if your business is still paying for the expenses attached to the individual clients.

Keep your business debts paid current. Try not to have any IOUs out there. If you pay your team flat rates per project, pay them promptly when they complete the project. If you pay monthly, document each occasion for each team member you owe them – a monthly history.

9. Keep your hard drive (yes, a techy word) organized – I know this one might throw you for a loop, but seriously, you know where and how you save your documents and records, but will someone else be able to make sense of it if they need to access the records later.

Make sure you have printed details on how you organize your computer files in the lock box. (For the non-techy, a hard drive is where are you files are saved are your computer.)

10. Passwords – If you are like me all of your clients’ logins and passwords are written down and documented, but all your login and passwords to your accounts (social media, bills, bank, etc) are in your memory. You don’t write them down because you are protecting yourself from getting hacked and someone stealing the file.

Write them down anyway, you may be protecting yourself by not documenting them, but that is the only person. You are not protecting your spouse, team, debtors, etc. when you don’t. If no one can access your accounts, how in the heck can they close them, pay anyone, etc.

Wow – what a TO DO list! I just shared 10 things with you to check out and act on, and in the process gave me many things I have to go do right now. I already have my #2 person picked out and designated, Jimi Bratt, and my #5, two people actually, Web Designer / Graphic Artist / Marketing Authority – Robin Moss and Social Media Marketing Consultant / Online Marketing Extraordinaire – Ana Lucia Novak, they already know – aren’t they lucky! LOL! Between the three of them, I know they will get my clients fixed up and finished out if an emergency was to happen.

What about you? Do you have a plan? It’s time for you to get busy and do some serious thinking?

It’s your turn … comment below the other steps you thought of that I need to do and the other steps everyone reading this post needs to do. Please comment away and remember, we are only as good as the friends and team we surround ourselves with.

P.S. This blog post is dedicated in Loving Memory to Denai Downs Vaughn. She was an inspiration to many. Please do keep her family and friends in your thoughts, say a quick prayer and end it with a WOOHOO for Denai, as she is with her maker now.


  1. Lissa,

    I am sending love and light your way as well as to the many others who are still here who lost a great friend, partner, mother, and so much more in their lives. I will say what a blessing Denai left behind in so much that you were able to write this entry to help many of us who are still here doing business. Although she is in another place orchestrating, she is now being able to infuse that energy into you and many others to ‘get the job done.’ Thank you for listening to your inner spirit and writing a profound entry that is something I had personally not thought about til now. I will definitely take action towards these steps!

  2. Awesome article, Lissa! I love how you’ve utilized your marvelous talent to honor Denai by offering clear, actionable guidance for business owners.

  3. Hello Lissa,
    Thank you for including me in your blog, I am truly honored to be a part of your life. I think it is important to plan ahead, prepare for the unexpected, and to try and make things easy for our family and friends, in the event the “what if” occurs. Not only is it helpful to have an overview of all your accounts, memberships, social media profiles, etc….you might discover that you have accounts you no longer need, and that it is very cathartic to organize your home and business operations. Make it easy for your mate or friends to step in and manage things. Upload the doc into a personal Wiki account; print a copy and place it in the safe or leave it with your attorney or the person that has Power of Attorney. As my business expands, I found it helpful to organize my home and business information. After creating the spreadsheet and adding all my info, I felt a sense of relief. Then I told my husband – look into our Life Insurance File because that is where you’ll find Instructions for everything. The next thing is to assign a successor who is willing to take on your website, business services, etc. I think it’s important to be clear with your intentions and goals because when you lose someone you love, the last thing you’re thinking about is “how do I shut down her Twitter profile, etc.” There will be a time to deal with all those details after a period of mourning, so you want to make it easy for them or who ever is left with that task. My heart has been heavy this week, as I pray for Denai’s husband and daughter, and for all her family and friends who are grieving and who miss her dearly. I learned this week how loving, caring people are online even though I haven’t met some of these wonderful people in person, you can still “feel” their love online. I also learned that my relationships are more important than to “always be working, networking, marketing”. I’ve been hugging my husband more, and I’ve been telling people that I love them, or offer words of encouragement. We are all on a journey, and Denai’s legacy was leaving an imprint on our hearts, so we can borrow her example and leave our imprint everywhere we go. Hopefully this attitude will help us to dismiss the negative people or situations and to forgive freely so we can offer more of ourselves to others.

  4. Lissa,

    A really great blog post. It is extremely important for a business to have some sort of succession plan, in writing and funded with life insurance, especially since term life insurance is so inexpensive.


  5. This is one of your most important posts yet, Lissa. It’s true that we don’t like to talk about the bad stuff that can happen so suddenly but the other part of the procrastination that occurs is our own pure laziness. This really gives us some easy to follow steps to get the job done. I didn’t know anything about Denai Vaughn until her passing from this world. With this you have helped others get their lives in order and honored someone who inspired you. I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

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