Accept your mortality. I know that it is difficult to come to terms with our mortality. We must take care of the adult business. And that goes for every person eighteen and older. It can become impossible for those close to us to help us when we are in need if they are not legally authorized to do so.
Identify your trusted person. This is the person who you can train to keep your business and life running smoothly when you experience an illness or incapacitation. Teach your second-in-command how to keep paying the bills and managing the processes for which you are responsible.
Have crucial conversations with the people who depend on you. Help them prepare to succeed in your absence, temporarily or long term. Remember that it’s at least more difficult, if not impossible, to have these conversations during an emergency.
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Beth Simón. After 30+ years in corporate financial services, Mary Beth now uses her strategic talents to help entrepreneurs and individuals build contingency plans that empower their second-in-command to keep life flowing smoothly in an emergency. Mary Beth founded Niche Partnership Consulting because her clients’ transformations inspire her. She believes that the combination of continuous learning, growth, and change is the fountain of youth and became a certified Les Mills BodyFlow instructor last year.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Sure! I spent most of my early life in West Philadelphia. My brothers and I were raised by my single mother. My mother taught high school when I was young, and she parented like a teacher. When we were punished, we were assigned 500-word essays. We learned sex education by dissecting frogs on the kitchen table (which was horrifying!). I learned early in life that education was the best way out of poverty. I also learned that I love to write. In my teens, my family broke down, and I moved to the suburbs with my father and stepmother and a few more brothers. My father left my stepmother a couple of years after I arrived. Both my mother and stepmother struggled with the shame of divorce, finances, and raising children as solo parents. I learned a great deal about life from both of them.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One of the best books I ever read was “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. What resonated with me is how the concepts empower almost every family to reduce consumption, live below our means, and increase savings. I read it at least twenty years ago and still think of it often.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“When people are like, ‘Life is good,’ I go, ‘No, life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments, and things that will break your heart. And in between those moments, that’s when you savor, savor, savor.’” Sandra Bullock
I work with people preparing for life’s painful moments or navigating the middle of life’s disastrous moments. It’s normal for us to want all of the craziness of life to stop so we can take a break, but that so rarely happens. It’s up to us to find the beauty in the gaps between challenges and struggles.
Many of us learn that challenge is a big part of life. As a result, we become more resilient and appreciative of the sweet spots in life.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
In 2018, I founded Niche Partnership Consulting. I primarily help entrepreneurs and individuals create Personal Contingency Plans to empower their second-in-command to keep business and life running smoothly in an emergency.
As states started shutting down due to COVID-19, people’s personal lives and businesses went into a tailspin. I contacted my network and offered to speak to their organizations about contingency planning. My goal was to help people navigate the unknown and provide some tools to help them start making progress planning for the unexpected. When a sole proprietor thinks they may be hospitalized for a month, they quickly envision their entire life unraveling. We all know that we should have contingency plans in place, but it often takes a shock to create urgency for us to take action.
When we have a contingency plan, it helps us feel more in control and grounded.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. We just don’t get up and do it. But you did. Was there an “Ah-Ha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
My “Ah-Ha Moment” was when I was preparing to retire from my corporate career, and one of my best friends was diagnosed with operable pancreatic cancer. She had retired only a couple of years before me. We had big plans to take more trips to the beach and spend more time together. But that was not to be. After battling for eighteen months, she passed away. She had asked me to help her husband navigate the finances if she didn’t survive. Of course, I said yes, but I asked her to show me what I needed to know, but she didn’t survive long enough for that to happen. So after she passed, I started pulling the pieces of the puzzle together to create a path forward for her husband. It took three months to transition all of the assets, investments, and accounts. It took a year to finalize everything related to her estate. Through this process, I realized that we all could do a better job preparing our second-in-command while we’re alive to take over in an emergency. Before I retired, I started forming my consulting practice and incorporated Personal Contingency Planning into my service offer.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Typically, I impact people the most when I speak to their community or organization.
At one of my talks late last year, a retired couple spoke about not having a will and the difficulty they experienced finding an attorney with whom they would like to work. Less than two weeks after attending my event, they told me that they had finally created a will. It feels like a huge success when people take meaningful steps to prepare for the future.
Recently, a young professional woman and mother attended one of my talks and thanked me after I spoke to her American Business Women’s Association chapter. She said, “thank you for lighting a fire under me to create my plan, finally.” Every person who depends on her benefits from her planning.
I advise clients that having a Will, Power of Attorney, and Living Will or Healthcare Directive in place is the foundation of a solid contingency plan. Often, the first step I take in working with my client is helping them find an attorney who is a good fit for them.
Are there three things that the community can do to help you in your great work?
- Accept your mortality. I know that it is difficult to come to terms with our mortality. We must take care of the adult business. And that goes for every person eighteen and older. It can become impossible for those close to us to help us when we are in need if they are not legally authorized to do so.
- Identify your trusted person. This is the person who you can train to keep your business and life running smoothly when you experience an illness or incapacitation. Teach your second-in-command how to keep paying the bills and managing the processes for which you are responsible.
- Have crucial conversations with the people who depend on you. Help them prepare to succeed in your absence, temporarily or long term. Remember that it’s at least more difficult, if not impossible, to have these conversations during an emergency.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Network with entrepreneurial groups before retiring. It’s essential to get out of the corporate bubble and grow a network of non-corporate connections to consult with and support your post-retirement career and vision.
- It will take longer than you think to feel like you have a rhythm to your new business. When you’re building, iterating and learning, it can be a bit disorienting. It takes months, if not a year, to find the operating rhythm in your business. What days do you do business owner work, meet with clients, and write content? When do you squeeze in volunteer and project work? How much time do you reserve for rest, personal, and family time?
- You will encounter obstacles that can only be resolved with the help of your network. Some of the challenges of opening and running a new business require specific expertise. Create an inventory of people in your network and their specialty. Your network is an excellent resource for brainstorming solutions and helping to expand your network via introductions.
- Decide what you’ll give away for free. A great way to introduce yourself and your new business is by providing value for free. Be strategic about the target audience for your free services. Allocate plenty of time to do it exceptionally well and make a positive impact on a business, community, or individual.
- Embrace your nerves as excitement. Especially when you’re creating a new kind of business, remember that if it were easy, it would already exist. There is no template for niche businesses. Often, you will attend events where you know no one. Reward yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious during this tumultuous time? Can you explain?
- Inspire family and friends to keep moving. My experience is that regular physical activity helps me feel less anxious. And if there’s anything that I have learned from 2020, it’s that the more stressful life is, the more I need my daily workouts. They transform my mental state, and the rest of the day is better because of that daily habit.
- Go on a news diet. The constant stream of information from across the globe can become overwhelming. Monitor your stress level to know when your mind/body can tolerate more details and when you need less
- Monitor our energy. I am a big fan of practicing meditation. I practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) twice daily. It helps me bring grounded and calm energy to those around me. When I feel tired or stressed, I know it’s time to meditate. It doesn’t have to be TM. Find a meditation/mindfulness activity that resonates with you.
- Bring laughter and happiness to your corner of the earth. Every society experiences times of significant challenge. But not every minute of every day is a challenging time for many of us. Remember to smile at your loved ones, neighbors, and passersby every day.
- This, too, shall pass. Everything in life has a beginning, middle, and end. Our current challenges will fade, and new ones will arise. This is life, and we are strong enough to handle it.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Pay attention to the tricky problems that you solve well. Listen to how people articulate your strengths. See if there is a way that you can transform challenging times in people’s lives in a way that energizes you. When you find this intersection, it will be your most significant work.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire adults, eighteen and older around the world to create contingency plans so that people who care about them are authorized to help in an emergency. Unfortunately, in the US, adults have less Wills and Power of Attorney documents in place than three years ago.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
That one person would have to be Tiffany Dufu. I loved her book “Drop the Ball” and recommend it to all of my female friends. Tiffany is an inspirational entrepreneur and woman. I follow her on Social Media and attend some of her virtual events. I did see her in person at a corporate event years ago, but meeting her would be quite extraordinary.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!