More Than Money
Issue #22
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Money and Death

Table of Contents

“A "Fire Drill" for Death”

by Bonnie Brown

A business owner I met several years ago told me about a "fire drill" he holds at his company. Once a year this man walks into corporate headquarters and says to the first person he sees, "OK, I'm dead." Then he goes and sits in the corner and watches what happens.

It is the responsibility of the person who receives this news to contact the owner's son and all of the other general managers who run the family's six retail stores. The person uses a code phrase for announcing the drill to the managers: "We've just had horrible news. The owner had a heart attack early this morning. He didn't survive."

Soon after, the managers gather in the boardroom to go over a checklist of key stakeholders inside and outside the company who need to be informed and what they need to do next. In the remainder of the drill, the group implements a contingency plan that the company has been refining over the years. One priority is to try to identify projects the owner has been working on and assign responsibility for them to others.

After the father finished telling me his story, I turned to his son and asked him how he felt when he received that call. He said for the last six years they had been doing this, he always had the same two reactions. The first was a gut wrenching pain, because he loves his father and can't bear the idea that one of these days the call is going to be real. But, witnessing the efficiency with which his team of managers tackled the complexities that would follow his father's death gave him a tremendous sense of confidence. He felt there would always be a safety net in place to help keep the business afloat while the family was grieving.

Adapted from Bonnie Brown's book-in-progress, Practice Dying Until You Get It Right: Seven Strategic Drills for Managing Money, Power, and Love sm. Transition Dynamics Inc. (541-465- 8940)  

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