Every year when I visit my cousins in Dubuque Iowa, I see the stone barn that my grandfather built in 1895. It makes me think about the long term affect of what we have accomplished during our lives, and could we have done better? And then these two thoughts bring me to "Why is legacy important for me... for you?" Start with the answer to "Why did you start your business?" Then add to that ten, twenty even thirty years of daily effort.
It has taken focus, diligence, awareness of the market, customers, changing workforce, production issues, constant experimentation with new products, and balancing financial forces to create the business strategy you now have. At some point you started thinking "What's next?" What do I do with this company and these people? I can't do this forever. And what is the point of all of this?
As with my grandfather, our country's founders were in the same position. They started by dealing with the current moment and an intuition about what needed to be done. Then they built into the future. Just as you did, every time they had problems they got creative and solved it. They hoped their daily efforts were building something that would last. They understood that endurance is part of legacy. So is the deeper meaning in things we build that endure.
Legacy is about making an impact that is meaningful and outlasts us. If it's done well, generations later your efforts, creativity, insights, vision, values and wisdom make a valuable contribution to how people are able to live their lives. If those who benefit are your grandchildren and great grandchildren, that is wonderful. If the advantage includes your employees, stock holders, community, and maybe even your customers, that is truly amazing.
Accomplishing a legacy that stretches beyond yearly profits takes several key pieces. First, holding a clearly defined long term vision of the results is a requirement. The second obvious part is doing today with enough skill that tomorrow is possible. The tough part is constantly linking today's actions and this year's initiatives with a five and ten year plan in mind. The almost impossible part is to have a 200 year vision/plan and effectively match that with the core values, systems, and processes for the time steps in between.
The problem spot for almost all legacies is implementation. This is where almost all legacies fall apart. What do you do to teach and inspire the next generation, so that they buy into the long term view through their daily actions that help to achieve and enforce that vision? Start with dialog about your values. Ask them how they define and live their values. Help them learn the daily skills. Always ask (because leadership development requires independent self-directed followers) what they see is possible and how they plan to accomplish that. Challenge them to grow.
Above all teach them the skills to invest with wisdom and wealth skills for the long term. After all, money is only a tool for our future, and the legacy we can leave is the meaning we have created with it. That is what my barn building grandfathers taught their grandsons, the long view and how learning, values and tools build legacy.
Legacy: anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor: the legacy of ancient Rome.