How to confuse your clients with partnerships

Cascading thoughts: EPA - Systems & Procedures - Hedge-hog

One thing leads to another, specially when you - so once in a while - have to make a 'snap' decision. That's what happened to me this Monday, cascading thoughts - one leading to another to another to another.

It started when Jaci Godman Irvine of Estate Legacy Services came round to discuss - long overdue in fact - arranging the Enduring Power of Attorney for my partner (Ton) and me. We're both Directors of our company, both have our responsibilities to the company and to each other - not just business wise. We have both equal shares and 'voting-power' in and overGoing Nuts the business. So, to speak in Jaci's word: if one of us goes batty the 'show must go on' without having to worry about having to go to court etc to gain the 'sole-power' in the business to make legal business decisions.

The question that caused the cascade was: but what if both of you go batty at the same time, or if one goes batty and the other in indisposed in some way (on a business trip far away was the example given) - who will take care of business (and other issues) then? A third 'attorney' would be advisable,  but who did we have in mind?
Good question. The children? No, don't have any. Family? All 'abroad' and with no knowledge whatsoever on UK business and legal issues. I suggested to ask a trusted professional, one who knows us, who knows our business (sometimes I think on some aspects he knows even more about it than we) but also the one who knows how much I care for the business. Don't get me wrong, Ton is as passionate about our business as I am, but...

It comes down to skills, talents/strengths and goals. It's a known fact to both of us that I would 'carry on regardless'. Another know fact is that my partner won't - he doesn't want to carry on in the business without me (bless him, don't 'condemn' me or him for both known facts - it's the way it is). So to me, having this third attorney on board is a very comforting thought: in the event I go batty enough I know he will make sure that the business is taken care of properly - not closed down, dilapidated, forgotten - we worked too hard for it - but either sold or run by someone with the same kind of business mentality we have.

Then came the next thought cascading down. Most of my tasks are 'filed in my head'; not just facts and figures - and most of those are in the bookkeeping program anyway - , but how we write quotes, order confirmations, marketing reminders, emails, answers on DIY-forums, answer questions on our FAQ-blog, answer the phone, welcome clients in our showroom, deal with suppliers, create ads, design web-pages, write FAQ blog posts, the lot. Even with the best intentions in the world someone else would have the hardest of time 'taking' over.

Another 'to do' item on my list then: writing systems and procedures on the above listed items (being an internal ISO9002 auditor - at the former company I worked for - might come in handy now).

Yesterday evening my thoughts cascaded further on this. Writing how-to instructions and procedures is one thing, embedding - engraving even - our business mentality, our Hedge-hog concept into it is another. How do I write the needed systems & procedures without 'killing' the hedgehog?

I need to ponder a bit more about this one, but in the meantime I am very interested in the experiences of others. Specially Art Dinkin's thoughts on this.
Art, I know you're an Financial Planner - US based - but I'm sure you frequently encounter questions like Power of Attorney and the consequences in this role also. What'you think?

Image from "Welcome to the Nut House"


Art Dinkin

Hi Karin.

These issues are on the fringe of my skills. I am a financial planner and as such work with clients on business continuation issues, but I am not an attorney and have little knowledge of UK law. I am glad you are using professional, experienced, legal assistance.

Two big issues keep in my mind:
1. You wrote, we "have our responsibilities to the company and to each other - not just business wise". It is the outside of business area which concerns me. You both need to sit down and discuss the impact on your entire relationship. Not just your business.

2. What a tough but prudent step for you to take. If this issue creates this much unrest for you now, thank heavans you are addressing it. Can you imaginge how your world would be turned upside down if you had to wait until something awful happened and had to deal with this issue then?!!?

In general, I council clients to consider two possibilities. First, the untimely death of a partner and second, the incapacitation of a partner. Both have their own problems.

In the death of a partner, who is legal heir to the business interest? Is the survivor interested in being their partner? The solution is an agreement to sell to the existing partner on your death. This works best when each partner has life insurance owned by their business associates so the associates have the funds to buy their interest when they die.

Incapacitation is a completely different issue. If only one partner does all the work, does the other still expect to get paid? Is that fair? Again, agreement should be reached before this happens.

This may be the longest comment I have ever made! I will have to blog about business continuation soon. :)

Your friend across the pond,

Karin H.

Hi friend across the pond ;-)

Thanks for this Art, you're a real professional: asking questions that make you think further, deeper about all these issues. Although not a subject many would like to think about but very necessary.

Let me set your mind at rest regards the 'outside part of the business'. We were already 'living-together' partners before we became business partners - and the how and the why is a whole story on it own. Suffice to say we were 'thrown' in it, somehow survived the first struggling years and are now both very proud of what we have established and both very focussed on what we can establish further.

The only difference of 'opinion' we have as business partners is the 'exit-strategy': two minds, two ideas - but nothing seriously ;-) and still a long way off.

Thanks again for your wise words

Karin H.

Steve Roesler

Hi, Karin,

It sounds as if Art is asking some good questions when it comes to the longer-term financial issues.

As for incorporating your "Hedgehog" with systems and procedures: You might want to find someone who has a predisposition for asking the "philosophical" business questions, as well as the skill in writing a manual.

I've tried to do manuals myself. Ooh, am I bad! But when I get someone to interview me about "What" + Why", it works!

Karin H.

Hi Steve

Art sure does.

You're idea is a great one! Wrote many how-to manuals and procedures myself when I was working for a large company in The Netherlands, but that's different to what has to be done for your own business where you have decided - found - the Hedge-hog concept yourself.

Thanks for this, I will put it to good use.

Karin H.

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