Starting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a “Business State of the Union.” Our company had been growing since its inception in 1997, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or to my husband if something were to happen to either one of us. Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.
But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you? Who has access? Where are the passwords?
Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.
Step One: Collect all the data.
- Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works?
- Social Media – As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login. There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
- Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc. where you can log on to the email?
- Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
- Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
- Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
- iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.
I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.
Step 2: Where To Store It
Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. We use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.
Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.
My husband and I have placed our SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to us both, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a hand written copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.
Step 3: Update on an annual basis.
For us, that just happens to be every August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes us less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.
The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge.
So how many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?
Recently my husband and I celebrated our 14th year in business, and I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what has made us successful entrepreneurs. During that time, I have poured myself in everything I could get my hands on from blogs, online classes, in person classes, certifications, webinars, books, networking events and just plain evolving with the times. We have definitely had our teaching moments that included some bumps and bruises along the way! So with that in mind, I would like to share some of my favorite teaching moments and tips with you in hopes that I can help a fellow entrepreneur.
This is number one for a reason. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and to let some of your tasks slide. Running a business requires having a lot of balls in the air and sometimes, certain important aspects will inevitably get put on the back burner – on then to never get moved to the front burner. It is imperative that you have someone holding your feet to the fire to get all the important tasks done. Not only that, you need someone to hold you accountable for your “Next Big Thing.” In order to be successful, you have to grow. In order to grow, you need an Accountability Partner. Typically this is a business coach of some sort that is trained to help you put processes in place to grow your business, or perhaps and investor. A great book on this topic you can check out is called No More Excuses: The Five Accountabilities for Personal and Organizational Growth. Nine years ago I new I need help to grow so I called a business coach. Every successful entrepreneur has someone that is holding them accountable. If you don’t, it is time to get one. I would love to help.
A mentor is not necessarily the same thing as an accountability partner. A mentor, however, is definitely someone you look up to, admire, and want to emulate. I find that when I get stuck in a rut or am maybe feeling a little lost that a visit to my mentor will help get me energized and re-motivated. Your mentor could be anyone. A peer in business, someone that was in your field that is not retired, a family member, a teacher or professor of some sort, or anyone that energizes and inspires you to do your best work. Could even be someone you admire from afar but watch how they run their business (a/k/a Barbara.) Take a moment to think about who that is, and pay them a visit.
A Dream Team
In my book that I wrote for couples that work together, I refer to this as my “Board of Directors.” Entrepreneurs that are getting it done will surround themselves with people who know more than they do – and can help them in the areas where they are lacking. Some suggestions are your technology guy (because there is no successful business without successful and seamless technology), your banker, your accountant and your lawyer. It should also include someone who has knowledge that can help your business specifically depending on your trade. Then at least once a year minimum, get these people together for a board meeting and let them know how you are doing and what you need help to do next. Have them brainstorm with you. Don’t assume if your business is small that you can’t act like a larger business. These people are here to help you grow. So let them.
A State Of The Union
This one is a topic that no one ever likes to talk about. But the reality is, you will not be here forever and someone needs to know how to get to the important documents, passwords and processes that run your business. Put all of this information into a document or system that someone can have access to. That’s right: every password, every login, every program you use should be documented somewhere so the person you trust does not have to jump through hoops to help deal with the day to day of your business. This is here for your protection, as well as your family. If you are in an accident and are going to be out of the loop for a while, you will want someone to be able to be YOU. If this person is not your spouse, then it should be someone who is there that you can trust. Sit them down once a year and go over your “state of the union.” Make sure they have access to everything. Trust me, you do not want to wait on companies like Google or Facebook to release information when time is of the essence. Plan ahead.
I never dreamed I would be an entrepreneur, and quite honestly went kicking and screaming along the way. But through my many stubborn years of learning the hard way, I managed to pick up these plus many more golden nuggets that have contributed to my husband’s and my success. And now I cannot imagine my life any other way. But I want to hear from YOU. What are some habits that you feel have made you successful as an entrepreneur? Share them in the comments below!