But I Meant to Get to It

Business owners are busy, and even with the best of intentions, there are always things we meant to do that we just never get around to. Failure to do some of these things can cost you a small fortune, and some can be disastrous. Here are some friendly reminders.

Death and Taxes: Facing our mortality is never easy, but death is inevitable for all of us. Remember, your death is already a tremendous ordeal for your family, so don’t create further stress by being unprepared. Failure to have a will means the government and bureaucratic processes will prevail. Also, if you have not updated your will in the last five to 10 years, it may be out of date. If you have small children, a custody directive as to who will take care of them in the case of both parents’ death is also wise. A living will is also in order. Powers of attorney are complicated documents and should never be taken lightly, but is your business covered if something happens to you? Being in a coma in the hospital is bad enough, but losing your business while you are asleep because no one can sign checks or take care of things just adds to the disaster. Hire a professional, get some advice and make sure the basics are covered. Consider funeral preplanning and payment. It can be a wonderful parting gift for your family.

Prescription Lists: Do you have a prescription list in your wallet and readily available?  If you have an adverse reaction or are in a car accident, such a list could save your life.

Physical:  No matter what your age, set a doctor’s appointment and have a physical.  Finding out your health status may save your life.

Off-site Computer Backup:  It would astonish you how many contractors have a manual backup systems and think they are covered, until they crash and have not backed up the system in several months. It is not a question of if your computer system will crash, but when. It is important to have a backup system you don’t have to remember to copy.  And it also is important to make sure it works and you can restore the data. Systems have to be restored off-site.  Even if you put a disk in a fireproof cabinet, the heat of a fire can destroy the disk.  Also, what happens if thieves take all of your computers and also the fireproof cabinet because they thought something important was in it?

Estimating Help: If you are the only person who can measure and put together a job and something happens to you, you are going to be out of business once your backlog disappears. If a key employee can do a takeoff, you can advise them on how to mark up the job. Have your spouse or office call me and I will offer some guidance, but I am not a technician and I don’t do square footages or count units.

Document What You Own: If you have a fire or disaster, it can take forever to count all those missing items, and you probably never get it all. With digital photos and videos, it is extremely easy to record items in your office, shop and home. Make a note to do so once a year, and make sure the information is kept off-site. Open cabinets and doors to take photos of what is inside. This just takes a minute, and if you ever need these photos, they are a godsend.

Safety Program:  Put together a simple safety program and have access to a safety consultant. If someone falls and dies on one of your jobs, it is too late to start thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find someone to help guide you. Make sure you have safety log books and follow the appropriate systems. By the way, don’t assume that if you use subcontractors you are exempt from safety issues. Hire an expert.

Make Annual Retirement Contributions: Contribute to some type of IRA and start early. Countless contractors I encounter think one day that they will sell their business and use the proceeds for retirement. Contracting businesses are hard to sell. Putting all your money into trucks, buildings and other business assets may not be the best long-term strategy. Try to balance your wealth. If $5,000 a year was put in an IRA at age 19 and the return was 5 percent, you would have more than 1.3 million at 72. Compounding returns on investments is a wonderful thing, but you have to start early and look to the long haul.

Review Your Insurance: Have a business professional review your insurance. Remember that the purpose of insurance is for disasters, not fender benders. Yes, it is expensive, but the lowest price may not be the wisest choice. Good business insurance agents are detailed folks who look closely to make sure all your bases are covered.  Are you insured if an employee has an accident in their vehicle on company time? What about theft and embezzlement? Are you insured if you have a spill into a waterway and have to pay for cleanup?  What is your liability cap?  Working on a $5 million house is not uncommon, and having an accident that burns it down is easier than you might think. 

Electronic Bank Theft Protection: Were you aware that many of the consumer laws that apply to personal banking may not apply to your business account? Have your banker put in writing that if someone hacks into your account, the bank will cover it. You may be surprised at the response.

I am not trying to be a worrywart, but you must be a realist. A little bit of protection can go a long way to protect your loved ones and all those things you have worked to build up.

About the Author
Monroe Porter is president of PROOF Management Consultants, a company specializing in seminars and business consulting for contractors. He is also founder of PROSULT Networking Groups, developed to help noncompeting contractors. He can be reached at (800) 864-0284 or monroe@proofman.com.

For more information, visit his website at www.proofman.com.

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