September 17, 2020

Earth, Wind, and Fire

Yes, it’s September, and no, this is not going to be about the song. This is going to be about unexpected events that will present themselves at different points in your career as an advisor and the ever-present need for you to plan and be prepared for such events.

To start, as I write this blog in September of 2020, we have an ongoing pandemic and economic downturn of historic records. We have gone from a booming economy with record-level employment and economic prosperity, to mandated shutdowns, historical rates of unemployment, and a heightened sense of fatigue, fear, and uncertainty. Oh, and by the way, it’s also an election year, cue the upcoming October surprises that are scheduled to come our way before election day.

On top of all that, for us here on the Gulf Coast, we just had a hurricane wipe out a entire region of Louisiana, leaving thousands devastated in the aftermath. And, there is another hurricane approaching as I write, barking down on several coastal states. On the West Coast, uncontrollable forest fires are traveling up and down the Pacific coast.

We could probably predict the chance of hurricanes and fires happening to some degree every year, but the pandemic….WHAM, I don’t think anyone saw that one coming!

As financial advisors, we talk a lot about planning and being prepared for both the expected and the unexpected. We do a good job of walking our clients through the planning process and showing them how to be prepared for anticipated events. We show our business owners how to successfully protect their interests should something happen in the short term. Conversely, we also guide those same people through the process of longer-term planning with an eventual exit from their business in a most efficient and, hopefully, profitable way. Thus preserving their legacy and providing them with certainty and heartsease.

Most importantly, we help them do these things, to the point of what we can control, on their terms!

This brings me to the purpose of this letter and a question that must be asked of yourself, the advisor.

“What happens if the unexpected happens to me?”

It’s a fair question to ask yourself, as well as a fair question to answer to your clients and your family.

Unfortunately, as I speak to many advisors throughout the industry, the overwhelming answer is “I don’t know” or the ubiquitous, “Well I guess” followed by what they hope would happen.

So then the question becomes,

“Why does it matter”?

Well, fellow readers, Continuity planning matters, and here are a few reasons why.

First, it’s the essence of practicing what you preach. It’s the same as I mentioned earlier; if we ask our clients to be good planners, how can we ask them to do something that WE are not willing to do?

Second, peace of mind for you, your clients and your family. Having a plan in place will ensure that everyone involved will have a degree of certainty, clarity, and comfort should the unexpected happen. It’s a great way to show your clients and your family that you have their best interests at heart.

Third, it will help preserve the quality and level of service your clients are accustomed. It’s the small things that count in the long run. Not having a continuity partner in place can lead to small events of uncertainty and mistakes while you are away. Those small events lead to client frustration and seeds of discontent. Seeds of discontent grow into clients that eventually leave because of uncertainty and frustration.

Fourth, in most cases, having a continuity partner gives you a “built-in” succession partner should your return to the business never happen, i.e. a worst-case scenario. Which in turn, helps protect the value of your business. The advantage is that your clients and spouse are aware that there is a continuity partner in place and there is some familiarity and knowledge of the protector. There is a level of comfort for everyone involved, thus making a potential transition of ownership smoother and less disruptive.

Finally, it keeps you in control of your desired outcome should a continuity or succession event occur. The agreements are outlined with a written set of instructions detailing the who, what, where, and when of such an event. It eliminates the “I would hope” moment and ensures a more deliberate and transparent set of events that would take place should the agreement be triggered.

Our lives will always be filled with some degree of uncertainty. There will always be hurricanes, fires, elections and life events that will get in the way of the best-laid intentions. The idea is to be in control of the things we can control and be proactive in our approach to handling the unexpected.

At the end of the day, we will all “retire” at some point and your legacy is all that’s left when it’s all said and done. Having a plan of continuity or succession will help ensure that the one you leave behind is what you would want it to be.

If you or someone you know would like to see how prepared you are for a “Continuity or Succession” event, please visit our website at and click on the “Know your Score” tab. From there, the site will walk you through the scoring process and provide you with your score and feedback once you're done.