Preparing for the Unexpected
Our blog this month is shared in tribute to Donald and Shirley Otto, parents of Journey Consulting's owner Jayne McQuillan.
On December 4, 2021, my dad was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital because he had internal bleeding and significantly low blood pressure. After a 25-day emotional roller-coaster, he passed away on December 29, 2021. Ten days later, my mother was admitted to the hospital with an intestinal blockage. She had been in the hospital two times before with the same ailment, so we expected nothing different this time.
At 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 9th, I received a call from the surgeon saying when they opened Mom up, they couldn’t remove the blockage and also found an inoperable mass. We were told to plan for hospice care and limited time. Nothing prepares you for that news, especially when we hadn’t even begun to process the passing of my dad. We had just over four weeks of quality time with my mom before her passing on February 15, 2022.
My brothers and I are only beginning to reconcile the loss of both of our parents, and I know it will be a long time before the full weight of our grief is felt and processed. As I’ve been told, we are now orphans.
I know I’m not alone in having had this experience. The reality is that we will all experience losing our parents at some point in our lives, and we will never be fully prepared.
My story is about being human and learning to put this in perspective as we go through our days, plan for our futures, and experience life.
At Journey Consulting, we spend much of our time educating and coaching business owners on planning for their “next chapter” in life personally, financially, and for their business exit. We teach owners about what makes up business value, how and where to mitigate personal and business risk, what drivers build business value, what exit options are available, and how to plan for and manage their next chapter personally, and financially.
Since we are all human, I want to share my experience as a business owner who has gone through this incredibly tough time in my life in the hope it may help you in the future.
I am the sole owner of Journey Consulting. We are in our 15th year in business, having started as a sole practitioner and expanded to a team of six. As with many business owners, moving the practice from owner-driven/dependency to management/team-led has been a challenge, especially being a small firm. Also, I’m admittedly a high “D”, if you’re familiar with the DISC assessment, and I have a slight tendency towards control…or maybe a lot! I know, as many business owners do, that those traits are not beneficial when building a scalable, value-based business.
So, what did I learn from the very difficult experience of losing my parents? Most importantly, planning and preparation benefit those left behind. Dealing with loss is painful and all consuming. Having to make decisions around finances, funerals, etc., is not energy that is available for loved ones who barely have the energy to be there for their family. Fortunately, I'd already worked with my parents to get a will/trust in place, and this past summer they set up funeral trusts outlining their wishes and providing financing for their passing. Although that didn’t eliminate everything that needed to be done, it sure made things much easier, and I didn’t need to guess at their desires.
The same need for planning applies in business – it’s essential to put guidance in place for employees as you begin to exit, or in the event of an untimely exit due to death or disability.
During this difficult time, I was 100% out of the business for several weeks at a time, and my normal focus and attention weren’t there due to the emotional stress I was under. I learned that my team could run much of the business without me. However, there were several areas where I was the sole person able to do the work.
When you look at yourself as the owner of a business, could you leave your business for extended periods and know that things can continue without you at the same level as if you were there? For short periods of time, my business was fine. Had this extended for several months at a time, that wouldn’t be the case.
As human beings we tend to think we’re invincible. That life will be as it always has been. That our businesses will continue to be successful and grow year in and year out. Guess what…WE’RE HUMAN!
Planning for life today, tomorrow, and beyond is not about planning for death. It’s about making the most of what you have today, ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of should the unexpected happen. Take it one step at a time and realize it’s never too late to start improving your personal, financial and business readiness!
Thank you, Mom and Dad! I love you and miss you greatly!
May I always make you proud!
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) is the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC