What if you’re too sick to photography your session or event? What’s happens to your business if something happens to you? In this short episode, I’m setting out simple steps you can take to put together an emergency plan for your business.
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Hi, this is Allie Siarto, and the photo Field Notes Podcast. And my topic today is all about planning what you would do in your business to prepare ahead of time for a potential business emergency. And I’ll talk to you more about what that could look like. Coincidentally, I came up with the idea just before COVID hit and I think we pretty much all had some form of business emergency at that point. But I want to talk about some specifics and how I’ve handled things in maybe the correct way in the past how I’ve handled things not in the correct way in the past what I’ve learned from that, and my steps that I have now taken that I feel really put me in a good place to be ready for anything.
And I’m talking like, you can’t shoot the wedding you’re contracted for you can’t shoot the event that can only be that day, or something happens to you and you’re never able to shoot it, you know, basically just planning for the worst, which I know is not a fun topic, which is why I waited two years to publish it after COVID started because we were already kind of like in a down situation. So I wanted to bring us to a calmer place so that we could plan ahead instead of just trying to stay afloat and survive.
Alright, so my first story about not doing a great job with emergency preparedness 2020. My brother passed away on January 5 2020. From pneumonia. Coincidentally, it was not COVID related. He had a disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy, which is really similar to ALS. But it started basically to show itself it’s a genetic disease that started to show itself when he was six. And he passed away at 33, actually, just after his 33rd birthday.
And so what happened was, I had a wedding January 4, and I was solo shooting it, I did not have a second photographer, and he had pneumonia and he was going downhill. He was living with my parents and on hospice care, we knew what was the end, we had, like my brother flew in and we had a family dinner on Friday night before the Saturday wedding. And I was going into this wedding kind of just frozen. I didn’t know what to do, because obviously hindsight, you you know what happened. But at the time, we didn’t know how much time he had, or what could happen. Like we knew it could be any day. But I really didn’t know how to handle this wedding.
And so I thought about getting a backup shooter, a second shooter, someone to just be there with me just in case I got that call during the wedding. And I didn’t, I froze, I didn’t do it. And so instead, I went to that wedding, knowing that like I might never see my brother again, because I’m going to this wedding this day. And of course, that’s a very weird place to be at this really joyful event. And I just turned my phone off because I didn’t want to know I didn’t want to get the update and be stuck there and have no backup. And so I think I handled it really poorly. I didn’t see him again, that was the end i He passed away the next morning before I woke up.
And so that’s an unusual situation. But I think we have to plan ahead for what we’re going to do if there is an emergency. And that’s not to say that we have to pre plan a backup for every single day that we have an event or wedding a session. But I think we need to really like make those connections and think this through. Another thing that happened was I then when COVID hit and there were all these changes going on with weddings getting moved around. I did then I had an associate photographer, and then we’d taken more time to kind of plan things out.
So she took over a wedding on a day that I wasn’t available. The wedding I had then got cancelled because of COVID. She then woke up that morning. This was pre vaccination. This is 2020. And so she woke up with cold symptoms, which you wouldn’t normally think much of but at that time, it was like you have no choice but to stay home. I raced home from up north to cover the wedding. So that was a case where it actually worked out fine. There were two of us. So we had someone there. I would say we did a better job in that case, still very stressful.
I’ve also seen situations where photographers get they get sick, they end up in the hospital, they’re shooting a wedding, incredibly ill all of these cases that are just not ideal, and that we hope never happen to us. But I do want to discuss how we can better prepare for these situations. So I’m going to I hope this doesn’t seem all too morbid, because I think it really for me, I come from a place of if I do the planning of if the worst happens. I actually feel really good because I know that everything’s in place and it relieves a lot of stress for me.
So for example, when Jeff and I went to talk to a lawyer to set up our will and I recommend everyone do this talk to a lawyer or set up a will and Get things in place, even with your business with that, our lawyer was very like, I’m sorry, we have to discuss this. I’m sorry, you know, we have to go through this. And I actually felt like no, let’s do this because it makes me feel so much better to know that I have a plan that things are taking care of that it’s been discussed, instead of leaving things in a state where we don’t, we’re no one knows what to do.
Okay, so let’s talk about the pragmatic, like the practical steps that we can take, besides going to a lawyer and setting all of that up, how can we take some practical steps in our business, to set ourselves up for an absolute emergency to make sure that things are, are ready for us if something happens to us? First of all, you know, I love having a system, I use 17 hats. So whatever system it is that you have to track your clients, even if it’s just a spreadsheet that lists every single client that you have, with their phone number, their contact information, so that if something were to happen to you, that system where that spreadsheet is available to your emergency contact, I’ll talk about emergency contacts in just a minute. This is the next thing that I highly, highly recommend. It’s made a huge difference in my life. And it makes me feel better about my plan for like giving Jeff access to everything.
So I use the the app and the site lastpass.com. To store all my passwords, it’s a good idea because it’s secure. And it just makes life easier anyway, to make sure you have really secure passwords, I pay a couple dollars a month to have it sync across my phone. And online, you can get it for free, I think for for just one or the other. But I pay to have it sync. And then like on my phone, it just reads my face and it pulls it up in it, it automatically plugs in my passwords.
So if you put in all of your key sites, like your bank accounts, and your your system like 17 hats or whatever you use anything relevant to your business you put in there, and then it’s highly secure, you have a highly secure password. But then you have a master password to LastPass. And then you give that master password to your emergency contact, or you give it to your lawyer or you put it somewhere incredibly secure where no one’s ever going to find it. That is the best way that I found to make myself feel good that if anything were to happen, Jeff has that master password, he has a list of the key sites he needs to go to he knows that he needs to go to 17 hats and contact my clients. They’re all in there in, you know, like organized in there under projects. He knows how to get into my bank accounts. And I have enough money in my bank accounts that if people needed to be refunded for deposits, I make sure that that’s in there, I have a separate business bank account. So it’s not all tied into my personal life. So that makes things a lot easier too.
Okay, so yeah, listing those out. So basically just printing out a sheet that has your key websites, your bank accounts, your client management system, and then your last pass information for that person, lock it up, let them know that it’s there. So you have your emergency contact, who’s probably somebody in your family, maybe a spouse or family member or someone you highly trust because you’re giving them access to like your entire life with this LastPass password.
But then I also recommend having a photographer backup, a photographer emergency contact. And so I set that up with Heather who was shoots as an associate for me, I also just reached out to her and said hey, I realized that I need to have a an emergency contact in the photography world where if something were to happen to me, Jeff can reach out and you have the connections to other photographers, you are a photographer, if somebody just needed to reach out to those clients to either cover those events, or Jeff can refund them if that’s what needs to happen, depending on how close it is to the event happening.
And so I have Jeff as my emergency contact, then I also have Heather as my photographer emergency contact, who I know I can reach out to if anything ever happens. And then you know, on the inverse, I’m her emergency contact. So if anything ever happens, she knows that someone can reach out to me. So I just put her information on my sheet. And that Jeff has so he has her phone number he knows how to get in touch with her and he can be like Heather, I’m not a photographer help. Help me, you know through this if necessary. So simple steps, you know, talk to a lawyer, get your will in place, get your LastPass password management system set up, just do a one pager with the key things that someone needs to know emergency contacts in place, you’re good to go.
So again, I know this is not a very fun, like exciting topic in business or not something that many of us ever think about or want to think about. But once I took the time to do that, I really felt so much better about things because I know if anything were to happen to me, I won’t leave things in absolute chaos for Jeff. And I mean, I don’t plan on going anywhere, but I like to know that I’ve planned ahead. So just a couple little notes that I hope are helpful for you. I’ve been meaning to share those for a while. And that’s it for me. It’s a short episode today. So take care.