@madpilot makes

Does your business have a godparent?

I’m not sure how well this metaphor is going to extend outside of people from Christan or Jewish backgrounds, but I can’t think of a decent non-denominational analogue, so bear with me.

As has been the tradition for many, many years, when a child is baptised, the parents select Godparents. Now originally, it was the Godparents responsibility to ensure the childs religious well-being – however, I (perhaps under some childish misconception) always thought of them as the next in line for guardianship if my folks died or disowned me.

Why don’t we do this for businesses? I’m a freelancer and if I got hit by the #66 on it’s way to Morley would there be anyone to notify my clients? It’s a bit morbid to think about, but we write wills for such an event – but how many people think about this for their business?

Even if you had the best documentation in the world, and kept your Outlook contact list up-to-date, it is all pretty worthless if nobody can access it, so they can contact the people that need to get contacted. So I’m proposing a system of Business Godparents – someone that can go in if the unimaginable happens and sort things out, to make sure your clients aren’t left high and dry.

Things to look for in a potential candidate:

  • Be someone you trust. You are basically giving them sensitive business information – if you think they will take your client list and start cold calling them , they may not be the best person.
  • They don’t have to be in the industry, but make sure they have a list of people that they can contact in-case of emergency. Having someone in the industry does have the advantage that they can start taking care of your clients right off the bat.
  • Your accountant might  be a good choice – they already knows your business intimately, so what is a few other bits and pieces?
  • Family members are probably good candidates as well.

What they will need to know and have access to? Well, that depends on the industry you are in – but if you are in the web industry you might include:

  • Your client list. They will obviously need to be able to contact your clients to let them know, as well as be able to do things like release source code, or graphics or whatever.
  • Usernames and passwords. This one is a bit tricky – obviously good password security states that no-one else should know your password, and that you should change it regularly. Maybe you could have a “needs to know” policy, where you spread the knowledge amongst a number of people. A non-industry person might be an advantage, here. If your accountant or a sibling has a “master password” (or a USB key with a private key certificate) that they can give to a nominated “person  (or persons) in the know”, there may be a smaller risk.
  • Names of services that you use, such as domain registrars, hosting companies etc
  • A list of other organisations that could potentially take over certain jobs, as well as a list of other stakeholders in the project. If the job was inherited from another firm, or if the job was a joint venture, it may be really easy to hand it over.

This is a bit of a brain dump, so feel free to leave comments on how this could work. What would you include in the list? How could you get around the security issues associated with password lists? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

4 comments

  1. Have been thinking about the same thing for a while now. I use Basecamp for client project management and collaboration and keep a good deal of the information that a client would need I.C.E. in there as well.



    The thing that I really need to do is to document a little more of my business ops and run through that with my husband. Also like your suggestion of using my accountant as a backup to that.
  2. Good post, a lawyer is a good place to leave the info and then reference it in you will etc. I've been through legal hell/hassles on two estates as an appointed executor, I'll never do it again. Giving responsibility to your family could be overwhelming :( I ask people not to give me these responsibilities these days. Maybe this is reason for setting up an agreement between two businesses for just such an event? Then costs are neutralised. I noticed Wells fargo bank have announced a data vault service in the USA. No idea what it will cost. Interesting direction for banks.
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  4. may i suggest a VA (virtual Assistant) they can be as much as a personal assistant or just do admin type stuff.

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