Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best

If 2020 has taught us anything at all, it is the value of being prepared. We have just experienced a live fire course in planning and some of us sailed right through things while struggling with others. To be truthful, we ALL struggled. Suffice it to say, we are ready for “normal”, whatever that is, to return and linger a while.

On the evening of May 28, around 10:30 to be precise, I got a text from the manager of a local store asking me to give him a call if I was up. He was in Portland, and I was in Southern CA. Any time a manager of a store calls me at 10:30 at night it cannot be good. He wanted me to know that the owner of the store he worked for was being rushed to the hospital due to a medical emergency. He had a ruptured aorta. Let that sink in for just a bit. Very few people survive a ruptured aorta. From onset, his was already five hours along by the time he entered the OR. The manager had uncertainty and fear in his voice. I tried to reassure him from 1000 miles away and told him I was on my way home the next morning so could lend a hand.

The next morning, I got word that Tim had made it through surgery and was sitting up watching TV. While we were all relieved, it got me thinking. What if the odds won and he didn’t make it? Then what?

I went into the store a few days later to help his wife do the books and pay bills. She was at a loss as to how to do the books in a store that had been open just shy of 10 years. Nobody on the planet can put jewelry away better than her, but books? That was not going to happen. We got talking and she said many times she had told Tim that they needed a plan. His plan was to just get me…that I would know what to do.

Tim would have been proud. They worked the plan. Followed it 100%. The problem was, he never told me about the plan. We had never walked through the plan. I know how to do the books. I know lots of things about running a shop from my 15 years of owning shops in CA and OR. You know what I didn’t know?

What are the passwords? When do we do payroll? How do we do payroll? How do I open the safe? Who

Is scheduled today/next week? How can I pay bills if I don’t have access at the bank? Speaking of the bank, how am I going to get change? Who is next in line now that the ugly has happened? How long before they can get here? What do you mean it is two children who have not spoken in 8 years and hate each other? Why do you hate me so much that you would put me in this position?

We managed to muscle our way through and got the books done and the bills paid. Two days later I called Tim in the hospital. (FYI…he didn’t go back to work for over 2 months) He said he had been expecting my call! We had our talk and came to the conclusion that his plan had some flaws. We agreed to sit down and make a real plan once he got back to it and we are working on that now.

So, what about you? Are you ready? I am going to give you some things to ponder. If you want help in your pondering, I encourage you to reach out to me and others along the journey, but do not tarry. Get to it. Emergencies happen at the worst times and you know what? They are almost always a surprise. Planning, training, preparedness…whatever you want to call it, helps eliminate the fog because you have already gone over that eventuality in your mind. You have a plan.

If you are an entity, are you listed as every officer and a director? Are you Super-Pawnbroker and nothing will ever happen to you? Think about Tim. Divvy up the titles and make sure the parties do not all live at the same address and fly together on planes all year long. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. While we are on entities, if you are a corporation, get your minute book up to date. You have only a few little things to do to protect yourself with that expensive corporation or you have thrown your money down the drain. One is to have an annual meeting, the minutes of which are to be recorded. Nobody cares if it is just you and your wife. Document the meeting and put it in that expensive binder they gave you. Every. Single. Year. That new Treasurer you appointed? Make sure they are included in the annual meeting and know all about your books. You are hamstringing them otherwise.

What happens if a principal in your business becomes incapacitated short-term (like Tim), or worse? What are the steps? Write it all down and use a pencil because it will change if you really think it through. Who is the first person to call that will carry on with the store? You have a viable enterprise with active loans. You do not get the luxury of just closing up shop right away. Someone must man the loan counter at the very least until the last loan is disposed of.

What if something happens to the building? (Riot, arson, unplanned fire,            natural disaster, drunk driver plowing through the front windows etc…) What are you going to do? At what point do you conclude that you’ve had a good run and you are calling it a day? Decide now when that is and then plan around that decision. In the meantime, remember, you have, or had, pawns. Items that belong to other people stIll, remember? Have you really thought about what happens in case of the loss of large numbers or all of your pawns due to an event beyond your control? What will you do?

If you have a cloud-based software, you will at least have records. If you are server based, well you may have a problem. If your backups are stored onsite you will likely have a much larger problem. If you don’t perform backups because they are a pain, you will rethink that way too late in the game. How will you identify what was actually lost and what had been redeemed? How will you notify the customers and what are you going to tell them? Who gets to perform this task? Have you had a serious conversation with your insurance company to really dig deep into this topic?

There are enough topics that I could go on and on, but the space is limited. Anti-money laundering audits, bank discontinuance, shootings, kidnappings (yes kidnappings), it gets almost mind-numbing. You must plan. The better your plan, the better your chance of sleeping well at night because you have given the ultimate gift to all who will be impacted.

There is absolutely no reason to do this on your own! Reach out to state and national associations, your competition, social media groups, and yes, even consultants. Get the information you need and make this a huge priority. Once you get it all in writing, don’t neglect a few important pieces. First, make copies and place them in safe places with all the key people. Second, sit down with all key players and talk this stuff through. Finally, re-evaluate on an annual basis so changes can be made in real time. Keep your document from getting stale. You won’t be sorry.


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