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Hey everyone, welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast.
Our topic today is one that I think is very important and yet something that we sometimes overlook. We’re talking today about contingency planning for your [00:01:00] practice. What does that mean? That means, do you have a plan for what happens if you are no longer around or if you cannot work?
My guest, Mary Beth Simon, is an expert in this area. She guides professionals to create contingency plans that prepare them, their families, and their teams for the unexpected or even just an extended vacation.
She’s the CEO of Niche Partnership Consulting and a national conference speaker. She believes continuous learning is the fountain of youth and became a certified Les Mills BodyFlow instructor after retiring from 30+ years at Vanguard. I love that. She’s a rescue dog mom, active in her local business community, and she’s on a mission to show you how to keep money flowing while you’re away.
So if this has come up in your life, in any form or fashion, and it should have, the question of what to do if something were to happen to [00:02:00] you or really just how to step away from your business for any extended period of time, then this is a good episode for you.
We dig into definitions and background around the contingency plan and how it’s different from a professional will. We talk about the logistics of how to build a contingency plan and how to actually put this into place in your life and in your practice. So stay tuned. There is a lot to take away from this one, and it’s one of those topics like I said, that is super important even if we would like to ignore it.
If you’re a group practice owner or a solo practice owner and you’d like to join a group where others who are exactly in your stage of development get support and coaching and accountability to take their practices to the next level, then you might be interested in a Testing Psychologist Mastermind Group. You can get more [00:03:00] info at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting and schedule a pre-group call. We’ll see if it’s a good fit.
All right. Let’s get to my conversation with Mary Beth.
Hey, Mary Beth, welcome to the podcast.
Mary: Hey, Jeremy. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. Glad that you’re here. This is a topic that I think a lot of us probably think about in the middle of the night, and it will run through our minds and we’ll be like, I should probably do something about that, but then the action is hard. And so, I’m glad that we can shine a light on this topic of contingency plans. Grateful to have you here.
Mary: I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this with you [00:04:00] and share this information with your audience.
Dr. Sharp: Well, let’s jump right into it. I typically ask my guests why this of all the things, and especially for you, this is a second career of sorts, right? And so I’m extra curious. You had the choice to do anything after you retired. And so, why this?
Mary: Yeah. I could have done anything or nothing.
Dr. Sharp: Right.
Mary: It’s not the typical retirement path, maybe. Although I do hear that more people are picking up a second career after retirement.
Dr. Sharp: Sure.
Mary: I had worked in financial services for over three decades and my goal was always to secure financial security and independence. My goal was to retire early and to [00:05:00] do something different, have my own business. I wasn’t exactly sure what that business would be. So I set the date that I would retire at the end of 2018.
After I arrived at that, one of my closest friends who had retired two years before me was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During that process, which was really difficult, she asked me if I would be willing to help her husband navigate the finances if she didn’t survive. I said yes, that I would do that.
She and I were both technology project and program managers. Her husband is 13 years older than her, didn’t use a cell phone, didn’t use a computer, [00:06:00] and you know how everything is online and you need to be able to log in, know the passwords, you have to have the cell phone near you so that you can authenticate all of that kind of stuff, right? So, she knew that it was going to be challenging for him and that he was going to need assistance.
Since she had retired, she had these benefits that we work very hard to get- healthcare benefits during retirement, but the process to access them, he is eligible to use them but the process to access them is really complicated. And she wanted him to benefit from everything that she worked so for.
So she did pass away in July 2018 and then I ended up spending three months working with her [00:07:00] husband about six hours a week while I was still working full-time to help him gather all of the information that was needed and to start working through the process.
Before she passed on, I had asked her if she would show me what was going on in their life, and we talked about everything personally, but nothing when it came to finances, or how they run their family. So there was a lot that I didn’t know. She never had the opportunity to show me what was happening. And I think partially it would’ve been a step too far in her diagnosis admitting that death was a possibility and I think that was just too hard to do from where she was.
So it was a lot of figuring it out on the fly. A lot [00:08:00] of trial and error and struggle to come up with what was needed. The entire process took a year, but the most intense part was the first three months of getting systems in place.
During that process, I came home one night and I was so frustrated and complained to my husband, and said, this is so complicated. I hope you never have to deal with this. And he said to me, what will I do if you die first? Because I do all the same things that my friend did. I manage all the finances. I have retiree benefits. He has his own business. And I said, I don’t know. I don’t know that there is another person like me that I could direct you to and say that this person will be there to help you.[00:09:00] Dr. Sharp: Ooh. That hits.
Mary: Yeah. And people deal with this every single day. This is not uncommon. So then I documented my processes. I started to put it together to put a plan in place for him. And that’s when I realized that we all could do a better job preparing for the unexpected.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I resonate with so many aspects of that story unexpectedly. I saw my family go through this process with my grandfather who, about a year ago, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then we watched him die over the next few months. I was fortunate enough to be there right at the end when he died, and then also saw my dad and his brother and sister totally scrambling to find [00:10:00] documents, passwords. They had no idea what my grandfather had set up or where it was or how to access it.
I’m guessing a lot of folks out there have probably had a similar experience either with a family member or someone they know. It’s super common. And I’m also the one in our family who handles all the financial stuff and think about that often like, what would my wife do if something were to happen? Would she even know where to go or what to look for? It’s a real problem.
Mary: It is a real problem. And as much as we might feel like things have gotten easier for us because we do a lot digitally, we have this whole digital life that needs to be managed and not even in the event of our death, but what if you were hospitalized or [00:11:00] if you couldn’t look at a computer for two months because of a concussion or something? These things happen.
So we all have people, or I would say most of us have people in our circle who want to help us when something goes awry. The trouble is that we may not have a plan in place that we can just hand them and say, go do this, or that we could have trained them on- this is where everything is, this is how you navigate so that they can more easily step in.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. It’s such a good point. I’m already glad that we’re talking about this. There are so many layers and so many questions that are coming up here as we dig into it. I just want to recognize this is such an awesome [00:12:00] example of how personal experience can really drive a meaningful job or career, whatever you want to call it, that has that extra underpinning for you of, Hey, this is really important. I saw this in my personal life.
Mary: Yes. And I think that it just speaks to if we have the ability to stay open when we want to have another type of career not knowing what it was going to be. I could have never predicted that this really challenging and it was super sad experience would be the little gem that started this business. I feel like it keeps her alive. I talk about her often. I think about her often. And her experience has transformed other people’s lives.[00:13:00] Dr. Sharp: Yeah. That’s such a good way to look at it. That’s a really cool experience to know them.
Well, I am excited to dig into some of these topics and see what contingency plans are all about. So, maybe we start at the top. I’m sure there are some folks out there who are like, what’s a contingency plan? What are you guys even talking about? So, can you just lay some groundwork for us? What is this?
Mary: Sure. I think one of the challenges with creating a personal contingency plan or a contingency plan for your business as a business owner is that you can’t really Google how do I do this and come up with a checklist of what is included. And even when you read books about planning for the unexpected, they might say things like, get your important documents together. [00:14:00] Well, what does that include?
Many people think, well, I have a will, I have power of attorney, or I have an estate plan, I have a trust. My attorney takes care of all of that. Well, having your legal documents in order is really a foundational element in the contingency plan, but it’s not everything.
So we need to have a roadmap that shows us where your birth certificate is, the deed to your home, your titles for vehicles, your information for your bank accounts, your investments, all of that important information, and that’s what goes into your contingency plan and your estate plan is part of that, but your attorney is not going to come to your house to try and find your birth certificate [00:15:00] so that you can be processed at by the funeral director.
There are all of these things that are needed right away that if somebody doesn’t know where to find that, then they’re dealing with this emotional situation. They need access to your home, to your files, to your paperwork, and they need to be able to find this information just to take the next step.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Well, I found that in my experience at least, there are two layers to this: There’s the emotional component of like, hey, my family member just died theoretically. And then trying to mix that with the logistical of, how do I find all these things? What do I need to do? It’s hard to sort through both of those at the same time. [00:16:00] And like folks who were in emotional distress are not known for being super clear thinkers, even if they knew exactly where to find this stuff, can you harness that cognitive ability in that moment, right?
Mary: It’s so challenging. And what I observed working particularly in my friend’s scenario is that one of the first reactions of people who are experiencing significant loss and grief is that when it comes to talking about money and finances, getting money that is due to them because of this stuff, they just don’t care. They don’t care about a life insurance payment. They don’t care about the social security death benefit. Not in the moment. There’s too much going on.
So it really takes a special [00:17:00] skillset to be able to separate the emotional side of it and for somebody to be able to focus on the business side of it. And because of that, the person that we put in charge and that we train for how to navigate the contingency plan may not be a spouse or oldest child. It may not be the person who comes to mind first. It may be somebody else.
Dr. Sharp: That makes sense. I watched a friend go through this process when his wife died. I don’t want to project this onto him. I’m trying to remember if he actually articulated this, but maybe you’ve seen that going through that process gives a finality to the person’s death and it’s easy to avoid that. It’s easy to avoid all these logistics because then that is [00:18:00] just another sign of, Hey, this person’s really gone.
Mary: Yeah. There are lots of examples of people who don’t want to do that. They don’t want to close a credit card that was in somebody else’s name. They don’t want to change the deed to the house to remove that person’s name. So all of those things are important tasks to be taken care of, but it can be hard to tackle because it of that element of finality.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. Yes. Let me see. I was going to switch back to the logistical component. So would you say that a contingency plan is the umbrella under which lies will, estate plan, power of attorney, and all that kind of stuff?
Mary: That’s right. The contingency plan is [00:19:00] bigger than the legal documents. In addition to the legal documents, some of the things that I encourage people to think about as the first elements to focus on with creating their contingency plan is first to identify that person who you will consider your second in command. That’s what we were just talking about.
So once you create this contingency plan, ideally, you’re going to train someone on the details of the contingency plan; this is where all of my information is, this is how my healthcare benefits work. If something happens to me, this is the procedure that you follow. These are my bank accounts. These are how they’re registered. This is my power of attorney. This is who has access to go to the bank act on my behalf [00:20:00] in the event that I’m alive but unable to do that on my own.
So first you identify your second in command. And you want to think about when identifying this person, maybe make a list of all of the potential candidates. It may be one person for your personal life and a different person for your business.
Dr. Sharp: Hmm. What’s the rationale for that?
Mary: Especially with therapists, group practice owners, you may want somebody who is licensed and somebody who is in the business if the spouse is not in the business. We have to think about like, if you have a spouse or a significant other who may be involved in this situation, what would their role be? Would they be a [00:21:00] second in command in any capacity, or would they be like a decision maker and have people providing them with input and asking them to make decisions based on the input that is provided to them?
So the spouse or the significant other might have the final decision on financial decisions. They may be the ultimate decision-maker, but they may not be acting as a second in command, especially if there are children involved. There are other things that are going to be happening and the emotional component of what needs to happen.
So when you think of who would make a good second in command, you want somebody who is skilled at handling difficult situations so they can tackle [00:22:00] business while there is an emotional component going on at the same time.
They have the ability to focus in and tackle and take care of the business. They are somebody who is skilled at navigating process, paperwork, corporate conversations, all of that kind of thing. That’s not for everyone. And they’re somebody that you trust completely with your finances, access to your passwords. Think of it as somebody that you would trust to give power of attorney to. You trust them that much that they would be authorized to sell your house, to liquidate your assets. You have to trust them completely.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I’m going to ask a maybe hard question, but I guarantee there are folks out there who are thinking about this. What if you don’t have a person like that in your life? I don’t know what [00:23:00] circumstances that might be but I’m sure there are people out there who are saying, I don’t know who I might give that to.
Mary: There are certainly people who I have encountered who do not have anyone. They don’t have a sibling. They don’t have a significant other. They might be an only child. They don’t have any other family members. They might be older. All of their close friends have already gone, that kind of thing.
So one of the recommendations; there’s two ways to approach it. You may be able to find an attorney that you are able to name as your secondary power of attorney or as your power of attorney and train them [00:24:00] on all of this information that you’ve put together. Give them the code to your fireproof safe where your contingency plan is stored, pay them for their time, schedule a meeting with them, and show them the contingency plan that everything is in place where your passwords or stored all of that information. You may be able to do that. I have a system. My backup second in command is an attorney- a young attorney.
Dr. Sharp: A young attorney. Good point.
Mary: Yeah. So, all of the things that you have to think about. The other idea is if you have some type of a professional community, possibly, so maybe this is beyond your friend network, but maybe a professional community where there are other people [00:25:00] who have a need of having a second in command, you could talk to them that you’re going to be putting this process in place and would they be open to being your second in command and maybe you can reciprocate and be their second in command?
Dr. Sharp: I like that.
Mary: When you do it that way and you both use a similar process, the training is so much easier because you’re both putting together the same type of information. You’re on the same wavelength, and it’s a way to keep the lines of communication open. Something that you can talk about on quarterly, semi-annual basis just to highlight any differences, that kind of thing.
Dr. Sharp: Great. Okay.
Mary: It’s a tough situation and it’s very common.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. [00:26:00] That’s good to know. So the first step is to identify this backup person.
Mary: Yeah. So your second in command, and then you heard me say that you might even want a backup second in command. For example, my husband is my second in command, and this young attorney is my backup second in command. And then the next area of focus is to commit to a password management system.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you recommend?
Mary: I personally recommend an online password manager. I use LastPass. I know that there was recently a data breach with the LastPass, and nothing is 100% safe. Even with your contingency plan, if you decided to keep it in a cloud, that’s not 100% safe. If you decide [00:27:00] to keep it in a fireproof, waterproof safe, it’s not 100% safe. If they could lift your safe, they could take it out of your house. If you didn’t have the materials stored in the right place, if you had them on your desk and not in the safe, and there was a fire that kind of thing. So nothing is 100%, but things like Dashlane, LastPass, and there are other options available.
I like that approach because you can identify an emergency backup in the system and give them access to your password. So for example, my emergency backup would get word that they would figure out that I’m no longer here, and they would submit a request to access my passwords. If I don’t decline it within the set period of time that I have established in the system, [00:28:00] then they automatically get access to all of my passwords.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Can I back up real quick?
Dr. Sharp: Sorry. Just to make this super explicit, when you say password manager, why is it important to have a password manager?
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Let’s get back to the podcast.
Mary: It’s important on so many levels. One for our basic security. [00:29:00] As we go through life, we’re running our life, we’re running our business, and it’s important that we are not using passwords that we can memorize and passwords that we reuse across platforms.
It’s important that our passwords are stored in some type of secure location. So having them in an Excel document is not secure. Having them on a regular Google Drive is not secure. I have seen things happen with clients. I had one client who emailed their Excel spreadsheet of passwords to their home. Their email was hacked. The password spreadsheet was taken and the [00:30:00] person who broke into their email was able to get, they logged into their payroll system for the business and diverted paychecks.
So it only happened for one week, right? Everybody freaked out. They didn’t get paid and they caught it right away. But we need to have more secure processes in place because there are opportunists everywhere looking for us to make mistakes with that kind of thing. And we have such a big digital life. In some states, there is a digital power of attorney. I think they just put that in place in California. So it’s becoming a bigger thing across the country.
Dr. Sharp: Sure.[00:31:00]Mary: If an online password management system is not your style, then you can use a paper password book. I created one for my clients because some of my clients, they’re just like, I want both or I need a paper password book for my second-in-command because they’re not that good with online or whatever. So I did create one. There is a video on my website of how to do it and all of the resources that I created are downloadable so that you can create your own.
And then I recommend using an erasable pen so that you can erase your passwords, and your security questions and keep them updated. People listening can’t see what I’m showing, but it’s a pilot friction-erase pen. That’s what I recommend if you’re going to go [00:32:00] the paper route. So identifying your second in command, and committing to a password management system.
And then the third thing that is super important is to get your legal documents in order. Unfortunately, less than 50% of Americans have their legal documents in order. So find an attorney that you are comfortable working with and get your will power of attorney and living will in place.
Dr. Sharp: I’m totally guilty of that. My wife and I put together a super basic will, I don’t even know, 10 years ago when our first kid was born or something, maybe longer. It hasn’t been updated since then. And that’s not the right way to do things, but it’s one of those things like, it’s expensive. It takes time. You have to think about hard [00:33:00] stuff. It’s the perfect combination of factors to make it easy to not do it. I just want to acknowledge it’s hard and necessary.
Mary: I think the mental churn about doing it is hard, harder than doing it actually is. So it is an expense. I’m in the Philadelphia area. We recently created an estate plan. So it includes a trust. It was about $2,500 to do that. So it depends on where you live. it depends on a lot of things. it is an investment, but when you consider…
So we have our personal life, my husband has a business, I have a business, so there’s a lot going on. We don’t have kids. So, [00:34:00] in order to ensure that the assets flow the way that we want them to flow, it’s important to have these things in place because I don’t want the state to determine how my assets will flow.
Dr. Sharp: I appreciate you highlighting that. I don’t know how many folks are aware of that reality that if you don’t have a document that clearly states what should happen with your assets after you die, a lot of the time in a lot of states, it just goes to probate, for the government basically to decide right?
Mary: That’s exactly right. I’ve worked with numerous business owners, multimillion-dollar business owners who do not have a will when we start working together. So it’s not uncommon and whatever people may have thoughts of, oh, it will [00:35:00] just go to my kids. It will not be the most efficient path to do that. And if there are no assets at their disposal to keep things moving along, a lot of businesses could end up closing within a few months when the cash flow dries up. So it’s very important to have a plan in place. And if you have businesses, you might need a trust more than a basic estate plan.
Dr. Sharp: Makes sense. Okay, so we try to gather all these documents. My head is spinning. I’m like, oh my gosh. Making a list in my mind of all the things we need to do and prioritize.
Mary: Yeah. And the thing is, it hasn’t been done for a [00:36:00] really long time, maybe. And so you just have to take one step at a time and put it on your to-do list.
Dr. Sharp: Thank you. Making it manageable.
Mary: That’s right.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. So, we got to get these documents together and update all of the plans, right?
Mary: That’s right.
Dr. Sharp: And just to make it explicit, this should go without saying, but there’s a personal side and a business side, right? We hear a lot about professional wills versus personal wills or estate plans. Is there anything to say about that?
Mary: Yeah, so when I work with therapists and group practice owners who still have therapy clients, then it’s important to consider putting a professional will and a professional power of attorney in place. So the [00:37:00] will, just for a quick reminder, wills are for when we are gone and power of attorney is when we are alive but we need someone to act in our place.
And so, the idea of professional wills and power of attorney I think originated in the California area from an ethical recommendation that it’s best for mental health practitioners and a lot of medical practitioners to have a professional will and power of attorney in place so that if something happens to the therapist, someone is on point to reach out to them and to communicate with that client or patient rather than that person showing up for an appointment, the door [00:38:00] being locked, not knowing what’s happening or could be having a crisis, who knows, and really need to speak to somebody and their person who they rely on is not available.
As I work with people across the country, finding attorneys who are familiar and experienced with creating professional wills and power of attorney is hit or miss. There are some states where I cannot find a single attorney who has experience, and then there are some states that I find great attorneys, like attorneys who do public speaking on the topic and are passionate about mental health professionals and medical professionals having this in their legal document.
Dr. Sharp: Is this a thing that is easily searchable? I mean, if I were to just Google [00:39:00] professional will or professional power of attorney in my state, would it pop up? Is this a specialty that attorneys advertise or is there another way to find these folks?
Mary: My recommendation for how to find them isn’t really Googleable if that’s a word.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s totally a word.
Mary: My recommendation is when I’m having trouble finding, so first I get referrals from people across the country, people I’m connected to. And then when I work with therapists who have a good experience, I maintain a document with recommended attorneys. If I am working in a state that I don’t have any referrals that are in close proximity to that [00:40:00] client, then I start looking for attorneys who advertise that they work with medical practices. And that is my biggest tip for people to help them find an attorney to work with.
People are welcome to reach out to me. If I have somebody in my database of attorneys, I would be happy to share that referral with them. But the key is to really ask the attorneys if they have experience creating professional wills and professional powers of attorney. Sometimes, I get all different kinds of responses and you kind of have to just listen to see if you sense that there is experience there.
The attorneys will typically expand on when they’ve done it, how they’ve interacted with that [00:41:00] type of work. Or some attorneys say to me, I can research it and figure it out, and I just am not 100% confident that my client is going to get what they need.
Dr. Sharp: That’s understandable. Yeah, you want an expert.
Mary: Yeah. And there are probably ways to work around it. If you’re unable to find an attorney who has experience putting it in place, there are probably ways that you can work around creating a plan so that you have licensed people who are prepared to act on your behalf in the event of something happening.
Dr. Sharp: Great. What else do we need in this plan?
Mary: I just want to share. So when it comes to contingency planning, there are really three layers for business owners. First, I always recommend starting with the personal contingency plan because we [00:42:00] address everything from the person just being a human. And that is the foundation of a solid contingency plan.
And then the second step is creating a business contingency plan. And for therapists, this would include their professional will and power of attorney, and also all of that business information related to their business. So information about their bank accounts, credit cards, any trademarks that they have, inventories of hardware, devices, IT assets, insurance policies, vendors, contracts, all of that kind of informationfor their business contingency plan.
And then the third layer of it is a business continuance playbook. And this is an inventory of the business [00:43:00] owner’s roles and responsibilities as well as their standard operating procedures. So typically when I work with business owners, they have everything in their heads. They’re the only ones who know what they do, when they do.
Dr. Sharp: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Mary: I thought this would just be a surprise. So this part is super important. You can do this with a trusted buddy, like do a brainstorming session if you have somebody who can ask you some open-ended questions and try and tease this information out. I like to get the business owner to share with me what they do on a daily, weekly, monthly, [00:44:00] quarterly, semi-annual, annual basis, take all of that information and then talk through- are their procedures documented for the things that you alone do? And typically the answer is no because as business owners we focus on writing procedures for people we’re hiring, right?
Dr. Sharp: True.
Mary: That’s a priority.
Dr. Sharp: Yes.
Mary: So then I interview them on Zoom for how they do what they do to write their procedure. I record them on Zoom and then take the audio file, put it through Otter.ai to come up with a transcribed version of it, and then use that to start writing the procedure. So that’s a little hack that I like to use.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a really good [00:45:00] side tip. Whether you use it for this process or another process, do a video and then run it through a transcription software.
Mary: It makes it so much faster.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. That’s amazing. Is it accurate? I’ve never used Otter.ai. Is it good enough?
Mary: It’s good enough. If I do a Zoom video recording with a client and then I send the transcription to my assistant, she’ll say, oh, it doesn’t get speaker one and speaker two correct all the time. I think that it does have to learn. It is learning my voice. I can see in the transcriptions it’s learning a little bit better, so it is harder for somebody who was not involved in the meeting, but when I use the transcription myself, I’m like, oh, this makes it super simple.
Dr. Sharp: That’s great. [00:46:00] I’m going to put this in the show notes for folks to check out.
Mary: Yes. It’s super helpful. And so that’s the Business Continuance Playbook is, the inventory of the business owner roles, the business owner SOPs and then an emergency triage document if the business owner is out of the operations for a month, a quarter, a year, for good. What are the steps?
So if you build on it that way, then you can create a pretty nice plan somewhat of a checklist for someone to follow for what they need to do. And one of the most important things in any of these scenarios is that somebody needs access to your phone.[00:47:00] Dr. Sharp: Ooh, okay. Say more about that.
Mary: They need, somebody needs access. They need to be able to unlock your phone because of the authentication processes with logging into websites all of the times that you get sent a code.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Such a good point.
Mary: Yeah. And then from the personal perspective, you want to make sure that somebody has access to your cloud, like your photo cloud. Some people don’t share that information with others. And it can be really challenging to get access to that as somebody who’s not on the same account, I mean, Apple. They really protect the privacy of their users. And there have been lawsuits to try and get access to that. So you think of if something happens to somebody and they have pictures of family photos [00:48:00] in their cloud, you want access to that.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. That’s such a good point. I would’ve never thought about the phone unlocking, but that is pretty crucial. We struggle with this in our practice just based on who has signed up for a service or an account. They’ll send the authentication or the code and we’re scrambling around like, who’s getting the code? Does anybody have it?
I just want to highlight listeners that these things should not sound new. I’ve been talking about this stuff on the podcast for years in terms of documenting your role and your responsibilities and your SOPs, and just another vote for why this could be important. It’s not just for day-to-day operations of your business, but if something were to happen to you, it’s going to come in really handy for other folks to know what you’re doing and how you do it.
Mary: Yeah. [00:49:00] One of the big incentives to do it is it helps you to take an extended vacation.
Dr. Sharp: Right. We’re talking about dying, but this is also a nice parallel process for if you just want to step away for a little while or need to step away. It’s crucial.
Mary: Yeah. And once you put these plans in place, it’s important that you step away and that you let the people who are responsible, who you have trained to do things, because that’s how we learn is by actually doing it. And until it’s real, it doesn’t really sink in.
Dr. Sharp: So you’re telling my listeners that they are obligated to take a vacation in order to stress test this contingency plan and see if it works?
Mary: That is exactly right.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. I think we can get on board with that.
Mary: That’s the recommendation.
Dr. Sharp: Great. It’s a nice re a nice way to frame it.[00:50:00] So what else? Are there other components of the plan that we need to be thinking about? I mean, we’ve hit a lot.
Mary: So the only other thing I think, well, one other thing I would mention is the storage of the plans. I do recommend a paper version for the personal contingency plan and the business contingency plan. For the Business Continuance Playbook, everything is online because it’s used for the business, your SOPs, and that’s typically in a practitioner’s Google Drive.
For the paper plans because they include your original documents like your birth certificate, your passport, your social security card, all of that kind of stuff, I recommend having a fireproof and [00:51:00] waterproof safe. So either to have that at your house, to have that in your business. I like the ones with the keypad. I think that they’re the easiest to use and you just want to make sure that your second in command has access. They have the code to that safe. It’s an important way. You don’t want to put your contingency plan together and then not have it in a secure location.
Dr. Sharp: That makes sense. I can understand that.
When you were saying that, I had this question of why do we need paper? I feel like paper is so antiquated at this point, for better or for worse, but I can understand that, right? Like some things you just need original copies and we need to store those somewhere.
Mary: Yeah. There are a lot of people who prefer to have things scanned, to have it on an encrypted hard [00:52:00] drive. That’s all well and good as long as you have a secure location for your important paper copies. They should be well organized and available. If you’re using an encrypted hard, make sure that you are training your second in command to be able to access that.
Dr. Sharp: Of course.
Mary: So it’s not just about what works for us. We have to think about what works for that other person.
Dr. Sharp: I hear you. I’m thinking through the logistics of this as if something would happen and just recognizing the need for redundancy all over the place. Maybe we’ve all had this experience, but my wife and I talk about any number of things and think that we’re clear on them, and then figure out when the situation comes up that maybe it wasn’t so clear. And that happens in my business too.[00:53:00] Just thinking about how to structure this so that the plan and the password, they exist in multiple places and people know exactly where to find them and the code to that safe, making sure that’s in multiple places. It’s just a lot of layers to make sure that people can access what they need.
Mary: Yeah, it’s a significant process to put in place. And I think that if we think about it as something that will evolve with us over the years, and be in place for a really long time, and something that will support us in being able to take vacation, support us in someone being able to have access to our important information if we’re overseas, we need a copy of our passport, we need some support at home while we’re away [00:54:00] having fun, then it puts all of that, you know, it expands the need or the possibilities for how this can be used to support us throughout life. We’re not exactly sure how we’ll use it or when it’ll be needed, but there are multitude of ways that it can be there to support us.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I hear you. I wonder, as we start to wrap up, if there are common issues that you see come up or problems as people try to implement a contingency plan, any of those just right in your face items that we maybe need to be aware of as we embark on this path?
Mary: Yeah. I think one of the most obvious hazards that happen when people start to work on their [00:55:00] contingency plan is being all excited and all in in the beginning and then quickly losing momentum because it’s easy to get distracted from taking care of things that are important but not urgent. So that’s probably the biggest risk with creating your contingency plan, and that’s why I work with people to hold them accountable. We set up a process.
So the way that I work with people is we work in 90-minute sessions weekly for four weeks to create their personal plan, and then it’s another four weeks to create their business contingency plan and then another four weeks to create their business continuance playbook.
You can always try and set up a schedule like that for yourself. And it’s important [00:56:00] not to go overboard and overdo it in the first week because people burn out really quickly. Sometimes clients, in the first week, they’ll be like, I did five hours of homework, and I’m like, you were only supposed to do three. There is some homework after we work together. Three hours tops for the first week and then up to two 1 hour timeframes for the following week. So, you need to pace it and do a little bit at a time. So that’s the best way to approach it.
Dr. Sharp: That makes sense. Cool. So people burn out quickly if they go too fast.
Mary: Yes. And then they just never finish. They never hit the finish line. So what’s important is really is bringing the best plan to fruition, and getting everything [00:57:00] in place.
Dr. Sharp: That sounds good. Any other major red flags, hurdles we might need to be aware of that we haven’t already covered?
Mary: One thing I would say, and this isn’t a hurdle, but for business owners, when they put their plans in place, it seems to relieve a level of anxiety that was lurking in the background that they didn’t even know was really bothering them. And then after they put the plans in place, it allows them to take their business to new levels because they just feel some renewed amount of freedom that this is taken care of. I have the business covered, I have a plan in place and now I can go and expand into something that maybe they were always hoping to do or always thought about doing. [00:58:00] So that’s pretty exciting to see that transformation as well.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I would imagine so. That’s a lot of emotional energy lifted if you just know that it’s there. I like that. Well, maybe we wrap up. So folks I’m guessing are listening and they’re thinking, this is really important. I want to do this. What exactly do I do? So if somebody wanted to take some action, today or tomorrow, what’s the first step? How do people even get this ball rolling?
Mary: The first thing that they want to do is to get their legal documents in order if they haven’t done that. And if they’re interested in starting with creating their personal contingency plan, I do have a free personal contingency plan [00:59:00] kit for your audience that has a bunch of starter information that will help them get started. They can create their password book if they wish, and they’ll have some checklists to get them started.
Dr. Sharp: That’s great. Yeah, that’s definitely the first thing listed in the show notes. So I would encourage people to check it out. And clearly, you do this work, you have been doing it for many years now and have a good handle on this. I’m a big fan of accountability and anything that we can do to increase our accountability. So, if that fits for you, I highly encourage people to reach out to Mary Beth and just have a partner to walk through this process with because it can be a lot.
Mary: Right. And it’s good. It’s nice to have a guide because there are all kinds of questions that come up along the way.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Well, I appreciate you sharing all of this with us. I appreciate the personal components and logistical components, of course. It’s got my mind spinning for sure. So thanks for sharing all of this with us.
Mary: My pleasure. I love to talk about it because once we’re aware that there is a process that exists, then we can’t forget about it anymore. My hope is that everyone will take some steps to put their plans in place because it just makes families and communities stronger while we’re prepared.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a good way to put it. Thanks for that.
Dr. Sharp: All right. Well, I hope our paths crossed again. Take care in the meantime.
Mary: Yeah. Thank you so much.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out.
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And if you’re a practice owner or an aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.
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