How Entrepreneurs and Small-Business Owners Can Prepare for the Worst
In 2006, I was given a probable death sentence. I chronicled my fight and eventual remission with stage 3 throat cancer in a 2013 article, “How Financial Planning Saved My Life.” The long road to recovery has brought more medical complications, but my faith, family and continued dedication to complete financial planning has helped me become happier and healthier than ever before.
My overall health has never been better; I am extremely healthy compared to my peers and age cohort. My steadfast commitment to fitness training, proper nutrition and thorough financial planning prepared me to handle the next stage of assault on my health when I was diagnosed with osteoradionecrosis (ORN) of the left mandible in late 2015.
Osteoradionecrosis is a consequential medical issue harming some former cancer patients when radiation to treat cancer of the oral pharynx causes late development oxygen deprivation to the jaw bone and damage to the microvascular system. The result is death of the jaw bone.
The 18-month odyssey since ORN diagnosis to date has culminated in six major surgeries to transplant healthy bone, tissue and blood vessels from my fibula and thigh to my jaw and neck. In other words, a bone transplant from my lower leg, coupled with a titanium plate for stability and strength, was used to create a new left mandible.
The procedures to repair the ORN were not without major complications. The first attempt at a fibula transplant from my right leg failed for a variety of complex reasons and had to be redone six months later with a transplant from my left fibula. I am now a member of a very rare club of people on the planet who have no fibulas! Luckily, through Darwinian evolution, humans do not need fibulas to support normal weight and normal physical activity.
So far, my new jaw is healthy and growing. I am experiencing temporary side effects that inhibit speech and swallowing; however, those quality-of-life matters should subside in the months to come.
Through this ORN experience, my views about the importance of a complete financial plan have only strengthened. My original article pertained to professional financial planners “practicing what they preach,” which means creating complete written financial plans for dealing with the inevitable, predictable, emotional and financial setbacks of life that will affect all families. I’ve outlined a few points, below, that are crucial to the wellbeing of all businesses but especially entrepreneurs.
1. Assemble a great leadership team.
I was fortunate to have a great leadership team that confidently guided the business while I have been absent for intermittent post-surgical healing periods. Building a great leadership team is a cornerstone of the financial plan of any business owner or entrepreneur and is as important as having a large retirement portfolio, adequate disability insurance, long-term care and life insurance.
Don’t wait until illness strikes to build this team. Invest in your people and look for current and future leaders who can care for your business when the inevitable surprises in life happen.
2. Stop procrastinating on your own financial plan.
I urge the business community to stop procrastinating about your own written financial and wealth plan. Time is of the essence. Life’s tragedies and setbacks occur randomly and do not discriminate.
A financial plan helps business owners, business professionals and entrepreneurs ensure they have hedged the risks of life that could doom their businesses if they become incapacitated. You must be prepared to avoid regrets.
3. Don’t get arrogant.
As business owners and entrepreneurs, we have regrettably been successful in about everything we have attempted and we tend to feel invincible. We feel we can power our way through problems. This is a fatal conceit, and the sooner it is tempered with a sound personal financial plan, the more assurance we have of fulfillment of our ultimate desires.
Revisit your sound financial plan periodically to review its merits based on the changing circumstances in your life. Know the strengths and weaknesses on your business and your own financial plan and work to minimize problems.
4. Remember that money can’t buy happiness.
Extreme affluence has never been a personal goal. As Aristotle so smartly taught, happiness should be our personal goal, achieved by habitually practicing a variety of moral and intellectual virtues. The result is the right balance of freedom, power, respect, admiration, friends, wisdom and money. Money is merely a part, but an acknowledged important part, of human fulfillment because having enough money allows us to be extremely charitable.
Personal charity is vitally important to a fulfilled life. We must be our brothers’ keepers for those brothers who suffer for no causes of their own making. In addition, having enough wealth allows us to focus our intellect on solving bigger societal problems, not just our own personal problems. A life of philanthropy helps to complete us as human beings.
Money cannot possibly carry the whole weight of human happiness. It has been said by many others in varying ways: Money can buy a bed but not sleep; money can buy books but not brains; money can buy companions but not friends.
5. Live intentionally.
When you first started your business, I’m sure you had a vision. This goal was the driving factor behind your every move and decision. I believe in carrying over that same focus and intensity to all aspects of your life.
I believe in intentional living. To live intentionally means never claiming the role of a victim or the role of hero or villain. Intentional living insists that you bear the full risks and full responsibility of every decision and every outcome. The opposite of intentional living is to live by accident.
This philosophy of life prepares people to have the right mindset to start businesses and pursue bold and exciting careers. It can strengthen resolve to deal successfully with all setbacks, even a medical crisis. I have never known anybody who is extremely successful in his or her chosen vocation who hasn’t lived intentionally.
Accidental lives are full of anxiety and can never get focused. Intentional lives are decisive lives that never look for scapegoats when things do not go according to plans. Entrepreneurs and professional business leaders have chosen to live intentionally. Intentional living is a foundation for a life full of confidence and optimism.
When you encounter a prolific challenge in life, you may think that it is inevitable that your business and financial wellbeing will suffer. I am here to tell you that through careful planning and intentional living, your business can survive, even thrive, through some of the toughest obstacles life throws your way.