Episode 78: Balance in Your Business with Contingency Planning [featuring Mary Beth Simon]
It can feel stressful and overwhelming for therapists to plan for the future when they're already focused on the business side of their private practices, helping clients, or just getting through the day-to-day life tasks.
However, that feeling of stress and overwhelm can result in inaction and not being prepared for emergencies, unexpected life changes, or even death.
These aren't things that can be ignored or put off forever, so it's important to have a contingency plan to make it easier for you and those around you to handle the unknown.
If you don't have a contingency plan, are wondering how they work, or want to know why you need one, this episode is for you.
In this episode, I talk with Mary Beth Simon, owner of Niche Partnership Consulting.
Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:
- Understand the importance of planning for the future and what the true purpose of a contingency plan is.
- Learn some very simple, quick, secure, and free actions that you can do now to prepare for future emergencies that could impact your business and/or personal life.
- Understand the importance of security and having a system to handle what the future holds, as well as how you can do that.
No one can say for sure what the future holds. For example, when COVID first hit us, many therapists in private practice had to navigate a new way of doing business and learn on the go how to handle a shutdown while still staying financially afloat. This is just one of many things that a contingency plan can help prepare for. Whether you want to make sure that your partner is covered to handle all the legal procedures in the event of your death or you just want to make sure that you can leave for a 2-month vacation at the drop of a hat, a contingency plan is the best way to make that happen using a stress-free and organized approach.
More about Mary Beth:
Mary Beth guides business owners to create contingency plans that prepare them and their teams for the unexpected or an extended vacation. She is the CEO of Niche Partnership Consulting and speaks at national conferences. She believes continuous learning is the fountain of youth and became a certified Les Mills BodyFlow instructor after retiring from 30+ years at Vanguard.
She’s a rescue dog mom and is active in her local business community in her free time.
Mary Beth is on a mission to show you how to keep money flowing into your business while you’re away.
Get Mary Beth's Course, The Owner’s Freedom Framework, for FREE.
Mary Beth's Website: nichepartnershipconsulting.net
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A Thanks to Our 2 Sponsors: The Receptionist for iPad & Owl Practice!
I would also like to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.
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PATRICK CASALE: Hey, everyone, you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I'm your host, Patrick Casale, joined today by Mary Beth Simon. She is the founder and owner of Niche Partnership Consulting and we are going to talk about contingency planning in your small businesses because, unfortunately, as entrepreneurs, we do have to sometimes expect and plan for the worst. And we are all ill-prepared, in my opinion. I can be living proof to that as I'm recovering from throat surgery and there are a lot of factors that go into if I hadn't regained my voice or if I wasn't able to work for X amount of time, and all the things that, you know, have to go into the planning process.
So, really happy to have you on and have this conversation, and hopefully, give our listeners some advice and support around something that doesn't get talked about very often.
MARY BETH SIMON: Great to be here with you today, Patrick, thank you.
PATRICK CASALE: You're very welcome. So, tell the audience a little bit about why this has become your passion? What really kind of was the impetus for creating a business, and doing speaking engagements and trainings around something like contingency planning and preparing for things when they go wrong?
MARY BETH SIMON: Sure. So, I worked in corporate financial services for over 30 years. And I always thought that I wanted to retire early, first of all, and start a business, but I wasn't exactly sure what that business would be. I was a project manager and a program manager by trade.
And as I was getting closer to that date that I had set, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And she had retired a couple of years before me and she asked me if she didn't survive would I be willing to help her husband navigate the finances, her retiree benefits? And I said, "Of course, I would." And I asked her to show me what was going on in her life. I mean, we were really close friends, we talked about everything. But we did not talk about money and you know the logistics of all of that.
And I think that that was just a step too far in her diagnosis to actually sit down with me and show me what was going on. And so, she did pass away and we never did get to have that conversation.
And I spent three months while I was working full-time, working with her husband, trying to figure stuff out and show him how to do things. He didn't use a computer, he didn't use a cell phone, he was 13 years older. So, it was a tall ask to get somebody like that up to speed. And through that process, I realized how complex our lives are. And even though I consider myself to be really organized and she was organized too, it was not in a state that my husband would be able to step in and do what I do.
And one day I came home complaining about how difficult these companies were to deal with and get access to. And my husband said, "Who is going to help me if you die first?" And I said "That's a really good question. I have no idea."
So, I started to put together that information and at that point, I realized that this is something that we all need, we all could use. So, that's when I decided to incorporate that into my business.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that so often we hear the word death and we think in the most morbid of terms and it's like taboo, we don't want to talk about it, we don't want to discuss it, and we want to push it away and bury our heads in the sand at times.
And I know I run multiple businesses, I've talked to my wife like, "Hey, I have all of these passwords, I have all of these accounts. Like, I really need you to be up to speed on this." And her response is often like, "Let's not talk about that right now."
And I say, "I hear you, I do, however, like someone would need to take some of this over, and I need you to be, you know, secure and taken care of, too, in these ways." So, I think it's something that we absolutely have to have discussions around. And just trying to be more and more comfortable to have discussions about topics that make us uncomfortable.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah and I think, you know, so coming into this type of work through the death experience, you know, that was like, overarching. So, I was always thinking about, you know, what if my husband dies first? What if I die first? But then the longer I've been in this business, the more that I realize that it can be temporary and serious separations of the business owner from their business.
One other thing, you know, so I opened my business and then COVID happened. So, that was a great example for all of us, you know, this illness that the medical community isn't prepared to deal with yet. And people were being hospitalized, business owners were being hospitalized, people in their business were trying to continue the business, they weren't getting paid, they didn't know if the owner was going to come back when they were going to come back. Business owners were on cruises that were, you know, kept out at sea, they weren't allowed to dock anywhere, they were on their dream vacation and not they weren't able to come back at the time that they had planned.
So, we don't really know what that situation will be. And it could really, you know, I work with a lot of people who want to take an extended vacation, be overseas for a month, something like that. And we put contingency plans in place to help facilitate an owner to take more time off, too.
So, there are all different scenarios. And the depth thing can really be a barrier for people to say, okay, yeah, let's do this.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, that's a great point. And because most of my audiences are comprised of entrepreneurs, one of the reasons being because they want to travel more, they want to have more freedom, they want to have more free time, they want to take more vacations, and I myself host retreats all over the world. So, had that had happened during COVID and my retreat business just all of a sudden wasn't able to be a functional part of business, I would have had to have had a contingency plan, and pivot, and figure out how to recoup that revenue or do a refund, all the things that could happen unexpectedly when something like that happens.
So, you'll see a lot of therapists and I'm sure you've encountered this in the therapist's community, struggle to take time off. And I can do a whole episode on that. I've been on podcasts to talk about that, and how I take 12 to 16 weeks off a year, probably more now that I'm no longer working as a therapist, but the contingency plan to step away from your business even for a month, the struggle with, "I can't leave my clients behind, my clients depend on me. How do I account for that lost revenue? How do I prepare in case something is to happen?"
So, what are your thoughts around the whole vacation component of this conversation?
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, so the vacation component, I think, is more and more relevant, especially, since COVID because a lot of business owners, and therapists, and group practice owners they have become seriously burnt out through the last few years and they need more time off. They have taken on more responsibilities in their business because of the pivots that had to happen, because of more virtual work, incorporating all of these new processes into their business.
So, one of the best steps to take is to document your standard operating procedures for you as the business owner, so become cognizant of all of the roles that you alone play as the business owner and what would need to be covered for you to step away.
So, when I work with clients to do this process, first, we just, you know, outline everything the business owner does, just do a brain dump of it and then start documenting the procedures. I interview the people on something like Zoom, you know, and then put the audio file through a transcription process to try and speed up the documentation, get that all taken care of.
During that process, it gives you an opportunity to step back and consider am I the best person for this role or was I just like the first one who started doing it? Am I doing something I really like doing, but I don't need to be the one doing that? And critique where are you are involved in the business.
Now, of course, like when it comes to payroll, a lot of business owners want to, you know, be the one in charge of it or, you know, insurance-related roles, things like that, legal-related roles. But it's healthy to take a critical eye to all of the roles that you play as the business owner.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, it's critical even without, you know, the concept of contingency planning. I think it's critical just to have the insight and awareness about how does your business function on a day-to-day basis and really examining where your time is being spent, where your energy is being spent, where your resources are being spent? Because we're so often involved in the business that you can't take a step outside and look at it with a different lens. And then, we're either making work harder, or we're doing things that we don't need to be doing, or we're just too invested in like the technical pieces of it when really, we need to be thinking as the owner and not the technician.
So, it's really easy to get caught up in that for so many different reasons. And I think being able to have a good glance at that, to really understand the functionality behind what you've created is really crucial for longevity purposes, too.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, it's a great place to start to gain perspective. And in that process, you might be able to identify tasks that can be delegated either to like a virtual assistant or things that could be consolidated, simplified, where you might question why am I doing that? Or yeah, to streamline your business a little bit.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, and I think when you start saying like, why am I doing that? The answer is always like, oh, it's just because I've been doing that the whole time, and not because there's any rhyme or reason to it. And being able to step back and really, effectively, optimize our systems and our processes really helps too, when you're thinking about time away from the business, when you're thinking about burnout, when you're thinking about the ability to have more longevity and sustainability in a career where people are so often burnt out. We don't even add [INDISCERNIBLE 00:12:28] now into the mix, people are burnt out besides the fact.
So, being able to really make sure things are streamlined so that you can hand things off appropriately, hire appropriately, like, outsource appropriately, hire the right teammate because so often, like, we don't even know what we're trying to hire for because we don't even know what the hell we're doing on a day-to-day basis.
MARY BETH SIMON: That's right. So, often, when I'm talking with a therapist about, you know, what are the roles that they play? They're overwhelmed, you know, even just to think of it like. Like, "Oh, it's so many things, we're never going to be able to document all of this." And it always ends up being like a reasonable amount of things that we have to document, but the thought of documenting it is just overwhelming.
And the first step to be able to hand something off is to have a procedure documented, a video of, you know, the process, something like that so that you can supplement the training that you would do with someone.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, that's great advice. And I think that's really important and often overlooked or just not done in general.
What are some other things that really come up when you're talking to your audience about making these plans and preparing your business and your life, to be able to adapt, and pivot, and get over the speed bumps and the hurdles that inevitably come our way as entrepreneurs. Like, entrepreneurialship is a rocky road and it's not always smooth. And I think the more efficient and effective we can make our businesses run in our ideal day-to-day look, the easier it is to enjoy what you're doing again, instead of feeling like this is just something I've kind of created for myself and now it feels really overwhelming and really frustrating.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, so I think that the overwhelm and the frustration comes in when we feel like we're in it alone and we don't have resources that can support us so that we can do all of the things that we want to do, including, get away from the business sometimes.
And to your earlier point passwords are a really big part of it. And it is wise to start by looking at yourself as just a human being in your personal life first. That's where the contingency planning begins, right? And then we're entrepreneurs on top of that. So, all of this applies personally first, and then for the business on top of it.
But creating a system for your passwords, I like things like LastPass. I know that they recently had a security breach, but something, you know, an online system that can capture updated passwords while you're changing them. You can designate someone who has emergency access to your passwords in LastPass. We all need some type of system, whether it's paper if that works for you. It's a lot to keep up with, but we need some [CROSSTALK 00:15:44]-
PATRICK CASALE: …massive business index card that's in his wallet with all of his passwords written down on it right now. And he pulls them out, like, when he's like, in my house, and like looking through how to get on something, and I'm like, "You really have to figure a different system out for yourself right now."
MARY BETH SIMON: Right and that's the thing, and we need a system that not only works for us, but we need a system that works for our second in command. So, these are two of the biggest areas that I ask people to consider, creating a password system that works for you and your second in command, and then, identifying a second in command. So, that might be one person for your personal life and another person for your business depending on who you are, or it may be the same person.
For a lot of therapists, you know, if a spouse has some involvement in the business, then they are a great person to be the second in command personally and in the business, even if they have a support system around them in the business with licensed professionals and people who can consult with them and give them input to help them make wise decisions. But those are two of the most important steps to take in order to start getting prepared.
PATRICK CASALE: That's great advice. And it seems so simplistic, right? To think like having your passwords structured and easily accessible is like a big step. But I like to think about like those who are constantly searching for their passwords, and getting frustrated, and getting locked out, and then like wanting to smash their computer or whatever the case may be and thinking about how much time that takes to then recover, and to figure out, and to systemize, and create another password.
Also, for those of you listening, you know, if you're keeping Google Drive, Docs passwords, I don't encourage that because you know, that can easily be hacked into, that's easily viewable. I know people do it, I just want to suggest that you try an alternative approach in that regard. Just protect yourselves, especially, protect your assets, your client information as well. All that stuff should really be in an encrypted password app or something like that, if that feels like something you're able to manage.
Do you ever talk about business wills? Like, professional wills? Like, the importance of that? Because I would say so many of my colleagues have never even heard of one or understand the importance of why you should have one in place.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, so of course, that is a big topic anytime that I'm talking with therapists. And so, professional wills are relevant for anyone who has private therapy clients, who sees therapy clients. And in some states, it's well-known what a professional will is, in many, many states attorneys have no idea what that is.
So, I do spend a lot of time researching attorneys in different states who can work with my clients and create their professional wills. So, I have a bit of a shortlist of people in certain states, but then in some states, I've been unable to find any attorney who is knowledgeable about it.
So, like, in the California area, it's very easy to find attorneys who are knowledgeable about professional wills. And so, the objective of that type of will is to give another therapist access to your private client information, so if you were to die, that that therapist would have, you know, HIPAA-compliant access to your client's information so that they could contact them, say that something happened to you, and offer their services. They could take over the files that you have created about them.
So, that will is on top of your personal will, estate plan trust that you may have for your personal life, and then this sits on top of that.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I'm glad that you named how difficult it is to even find people who feel competent or knowledgeable because I imagine that 99% of the folks listening right now are like, "I didn't even know that was a thing." And I really encourage you all to start looking into that because God forbid something happens and you really want to make sure that your clientele are informed and communicated to appropriately, that you're putting the right pieces in place, the right person in place to take over whatever you've created.
And again, it's one of those topics that we just don't enjoy talking about, and understandably so. But another way to just have some preparation for your business that you've worked so hard to create. I think that's just a really important piece of this as well.
So, with all of that being said, you know, we're kind of doing a quick overview on why this is important. Are there things that stick out to you or feel like, this is something I really want people to know, or that I really enjoy to talk about in this regard?
MARY BETH SIMON: So, one other thing that I will mention is that when you put your plan in place, and I use binders to put all of the original documents together in that location, then I recommend that my clients purchase a fireproof and waterproof safe. So, you should have a safe in your home or in your business where you can store all of these essential documents.
Some clients like to upload them to a cloud service. I would just caution people to be really careful about putting your personally identifiable information in the cloud, nothing is risk-free. If your contingency plan is out of the fireproof safe and a fire happens at your home or your office, then, you know, that's risky too. But having a safe at a location that makes sense for you and your business is a wise move and you can put all of your legal documents, the deed to your home, all of that, your vehicle information, all of that in there so that it is protected. So, that's something regardless if you're a business owner or not, we all need that.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, that's great advice, too. And those are easy to get. You can get a cheap one on Amazon pretty quickly.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yes.
PATRICK CASALE: You know, store it somewhere and just lock everything up and just protect yourselves. You know, I think at the end of the day the important thing to remember is as a human being and a small business owner you've worked really hard to create what you've created or to start building and establishing what you have. So, protecting yourself should be primary focus in a lot of these arenas. And so oftentimes, we just kind of push it to the back burner because we don't have the time, or the desire, or more importantly, the know-how, or the information. And I think that's really a big part of this as well as just having the information.
MARY BETH SIMON: That's exactly right, right? You know, we would all have it in place, if we could just Google, how do we do this? Unfortunately, there isn't like an easy list that you can find. And it's easy to find something more important and urgent to take care of instead of doing this because it's not urgent, it's very important, but once you have it taken care of it does relieve a level of stress that you didn't realize was bothering you.
So, with business owners, I see them, you know, feel relieved to the point where they do new things in their business that they've had, you know, brewing in the back of their mind because they have a weight lifted off of them.
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely. I mean, I think we all can relate to the relief that comes with crossing something off the list that's been on there for however long. I know It gives me some breathing room to be like, "Okay, that is finally taken care of and now I don't have to worry about that anymore."
So, just really trying to make your lives easier with this information, and this guidance, and just trying to help you sort some of the stuff out that feels murky or unclear and maybe a little bit more complicated than it needs to be.
And, you know, just circling back to the vacation conversation for therapists out there in practice, I know some of you are also concerned about crisis plans while you're away, things of that nature that are very, very important, do I need to have someone covering my calls or do I have to, you know, do any of these things? I really recommend checking with your state licensing board on after-hours requirements and emergency requirements, but ultimately, most of the time auto-responses, voicemails set to auto-respond, giving crisis numbers, giving emergency tip lines, things like that, you're pretty well covered.
So, just make sure that you're doing the things that make sure that you're protecting your business and your reputation as well. Simple suggestions really easy to do and often overlooked and missed.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, that's a great idea. There's always a solution to be able to find balance in your business. It may not be obvious, but there's always a way to make that work.
PATRICK CASALE: Balance in your business could be a good podcast title Kelsey, for when you're listening to this. In reality, you know, I think that's really an important statement because a lot of helpers really struggle with that component of balancing my business and stepping away without stress and actually doing self-care that we so often preach, but don't practice, and just really trying to make your lives a bit more manageable, and a bit more enjoyable because otherwise, why did we start our own businesses in the first place if we're not able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, the time, the autonomy, the creativity, the travel, etc., whatever you've created your business centered around?
So, I really want to thank you for all this guidance and advice. And I definitely learned a couple of things today. And honestly, this topic wasn't even on my mind until you reached out. So, I'm really happy that we got to have this conversation.
MARY BETH SIMON: That's awesome. I'm grateful that you're bringing this topic to your audience. The more that people around us are prepared, the better off we are in a community and in a business world. Yeah, as it makes us all more resilient.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I agree, 100%. Dad, if you're listening to this, please throw your index card of passwords away because you lose your wallet all the time, okay? Thanks, bye.
Every time I see him pull that thing out of his wallet to like get on Gmail, or get on his Amazon account, or in his Fb account I'm like, "Dad come on, man. Like, your phone saves these things."
MARY BETH SIMON: Oh, my gosh, Patrick, I just wanted to tell you one of my business clients had their passwords in an Excel spreadsheet. And they emailed it to somebody and then their email got hacked, the hacker got into their payroll system and diverted direct deposits. So, I mean, it's serious, we really need some sound password management.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, that's very good. It is a good testimonial to the importance of it, there is a password protection device in addition to LastPass that I like, Dashlane, I've used that. I think that's been pretty good so far to share, if you have a family member you need to invite as well. Lots of these systems out there. So, again, protect yourselves, protect your businesses, really want to see the hard work that you've had safe and secure.
So, Mary Beth, just tell the audience where they can find more of what you're offering and how they can find you.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, so please visit my website, nichepartnershipconsulting.net. And I did create a course and this was created specifically for therapists to give them some hacks on the way that I expedite documenting SOPs for therapists. And that course is available to your listeners for free at nichepartnershipconsulting.net/allthings.
PATRICK CASALE: Great, thank you so much for that.
MARY BETH SIMON: Sure.
PATRICK CASALE: And I will have all of that information in the show notes so that you can easily access that, utilize that. I think that resource sounds invaluable and super easy to make things more user-friendly in your operating procedures. Thanks again for making the time and coming on today.
MARY BETH SIMON: Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Patrick.
PATRICK CASALE: To everyone listening to the All Things Private Practice Podcast, new episodes are out every single Sunday on all major platforms. Like, download, subscribe, and share. Doubt yourself, do it anyway. We'll see you next week.
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