By Lisa Coppola, boutique law firm attorney and partner in The English Gardener
“A fire drill does not demand a fire.” —Nancy Cartwright
So, then, what’s all the hype about a fire drill? Well, for safety’s sake, it’s always a good idea to know the location of the exits. And that small piece of knowledge, tucked away for safekeeping, ensures that in an acute situation, you know the most effective path.
The same is true about a business fire drill, which I encourage clients and colleagues to conduct just once a year. No, it’s not running outside in the rain without an umbrella. Rather, it’s a cup of your favorite beverage around a table populated by your trusted advisors. That sounds much more inviting, don’t you think?
So what’s the agenda? You should be prepared to share your one- and five-year plans. If formal business plans don’t appeal to you, at least give thought in advance to where you want to take your business during the next one- and three-year cycles, and perhaps even what’s in store for the next five years as well.
Who should be at your fire drill? There are a few players whom you should invite for sure, and most would say, I think, that their presence is part of the service they provide to you—without charge—as an expression of their goodwill for being part of your business posse.
Plan to invite your:
- Banker: She may have been the first professional with whom you consulted when you got your business off the ground. Whether you’re celebrating one or 30 years in business, your banker deserves a seat at the fire drill table.
- Financial Advisor: Your financial advisor may support you in business or personally—or both—and either way, she’s one of the right people to be there for your fire drill.
- Insurance Agent: When you talk risk, which always is part of a fire drill, you ought to have your insurance professional by your side. She serves to clarify which risks can be managed by insurance and which risks will be self-insured.
- Attorney: Most attorneys should be more than happy to spend an hour or so with you during your fire drill—gratis—to listen to your plans and offer some general insight, which could range from amending operating agreements to property plans to licenses and government permits, for example.
When’s the best time to hold your fire drill? Well, assuming you’ve never conducted one, the best time is this month. Why? There’s no time like the present! But there’s no magic to the timing either, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You easily can schedule your fire drill to coincide with the month you first went into business or your birthday month. Choose the first day of summer if that’s what feels best to you. What’s important is that you do it. What this means in reality is you:
- Spend a short period of time (approximately 2 hours) giving thought to and writing down your plans and desires
- Invite your trusted advisors to meet with you (approximately 1 hour), share those plans and elicit their feedback and insights
That’s it! There’s no silver bullet and no baloney. Like a traditional fire drill, this practice assures you stay on the right path to meet your goals. And if, like me, you’re fortunate enough to count your NAWBO sisters among your most trusted advisors, you can be sure that they’ll be there to support you, share their experience and provide the feedback you need to build your business and your personal wealth to the next level.
Lisa Coppola will become the NAWBO-Buffalo-Niagara’s President in June 2016. She’s been an attorney since 1990 and recently left big-firm life to open a boutique law practice where mindfulness is her guide. She’s also a partner in The English Gardener, WNY’s premier garden-design company. A single mom by choice, Lisa’s favorite activity is traveling and exploring with her two teenaged daughters.