We all know that nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. Yet when it comes to our health, most of us proceed as if we are never going to get sick. Never underestimate the time, energy and resources that a medical crisis demands, and which become even more burdensome when you run a family-owned business.
As a medical care management expert, I’ve spent more than 30 years helping people to navigate the health care system and find innovative solutions to life-changing medical problems. The truth is, there are effective ways to better protect yourself right now, while you’re well—easy steps that everyone can take. But most people don’t do them because they don’t want to think about potential illness.
Likewise, families find it very difficult to broach the subject of succession planning. It’s a difficult topic that puts sensitive issues on the table: Mary isn’t really working very hard; George doesn’t have the talent to run this business, etc. And so, these crucial conversations get put on hold. But medical emergencies don’t come by appointment. If your CEO-mom is suddenly unconscious in the hospital, along with the emotional challenges you’ll face, the family will be compelled to devise a succession plan that lacks the benefit of time and thoughtful consideration.
Instead of waiting for an emergency, buttress the health of the family business by having a frank discussion about everyone’s physical health. One way to begin is by exploring whether the family is doing all they can to get the best care. For example, each member of the family should:
- Have a strong relationship with a trusted primary care physician, who can do appropriate preventive screenings. By having this person in your arsenal of professionals, you’re decreasing your chances of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic problems. And living a longer, more productive life is the best guard against the need for a sudden succession plan.
- Keep copies of their medical records in a binder or on a flash drive, readily available in case of an emergency. Your medical records, by federal law, belong to you, and they hold the clues to your health over time, which can become invaluable when you are facing a new diagnosis.
- Have a written, detailed family health history, which includes information about current and past medical conditions in the family. This document is the best piece of information your doctors have to predict and prevent problems that may arise.
There are so many health benefits to following these three steps. But there are also collateral benefits for family businesses. By focusing on a discussion about physical health, you’ve laid a steppingstone to a forthright discussion about financial health, and the steps needed to strengthen the business over time. In subtle but important ways, you’re tearing down some of the barriers that keep you from having a frank discussion about succession.
Leslie D. Michelson is the author of The Patient’s Playbook and host of The No-Mistake Zone™ podcast. He is a highly sought-after expert who has spent the last thirty years guiding thousands of people through our complex healthcare system.