Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.
Many business owners like to think they're unstoppable.
But the reality is that at any point death or illness can strike unexpectedly.
And for business owners who haven't documented processes or procedures, or put someone in charge of their digital afterlife, it can be hard to keep the business going in their absence.
"It's not good business practice to take your secrets to the grave," says Christine Shiebler, counsel at Roe Taroff Taitz & Portman, a law firm in Bohemia.
If you're the only one who holds key information, it makes it extremely difficult to keep your business functioning in your absence, she notes. There's certain information you should be documenting, and entrusting someone with accessing that information in your absence.
This includes, says Shiebler:
1. Pertinent banking information, such as key accounts, lines of credit and credit cards.
2. Important contacts and phone numbers for your CPA, lawyer, financial adviser, vendors and suppliers.
3. Insurance information.
4. Any liabilities the business has (car leases, mortgages, rents, etc.), and passwords for voice mail, and bank and payroll accounts.
If you're worried about security, you don't have to leave these passwords just lying around the office, she notes. There are a number of services, such as Legacy Locker, MyCorp Vault and AssetLock, that let you secure this kind of information safely.
Tom Beaton, CEO of Beaton Accounting in Riverhead, a business accounting firm, will be utilizing MyCorp Vault for these purposes. His clients will each have their own individual password to access MyCorp Vault and retrieve their records.
"You want to have redundancy in case something happens," says Beaton, who's in the process of implementing it. Even if he's just on vacation, clients still need to do business and access data, he notes.
The service costs $50 a year, says Deborah Sweeney, chief executive of MyCorporation.com in Calabasas, Calif., which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and business, and online storage through MyCorp Vault.
Among key information you should be documenting, Sweeney advises, are legal contracts, human resources and corporate documents and trademarks and copyrights. And don't forget your online identities or social media accounts, says Sweeney.
As part of digital governance, it's important that more than one person know all the logins, passwords and email addresses used for any digital accounts where you would need to control your company's messaging, says Adele McAlear, a Montreal-based marketing consultant and digital legacy researcher.
Someone should be assigned as keeper of the passwords, she suggests, noting these could be stored in a password-protected spreadsheet. As extra backup, the keeper needs to share the password and spreadsheet location with someone else, like a trustworthy senior manager, for redundancy purposes, she notes.
You may want to treat your corporate and personal digital accounts separately and assign two different people as digital executors -- the persons responsible for tying up or maintaining your digital accounts once you've passed away, she says.
Basil Puglisi, co-founder of Digital Ethos, a professional development and education organization for digital communications, and president of PMG Interactive, a digital marketing consultancy in Center Moriches, has taken such precautions.
He's in the process of crafting his personal will and within that is documenting his digital assets and who the beneficiaries are.
For instance, he has over 22,000 Twitter followers and also owns about 110 Web domains. He doesn't want to leave to chance who ends up with those.
DON'T FORGET THE PASSWORDS
Passwords are key to accessing critical information. Make sure you safely document passwords for email, websites, domain registries and social media accounts as well as Google accounts, including Google Drive for documents, Google analytics, Gmail accounts, Google+ and YouTube.
Source: Adele McAlear