In the private business world there are two types of legacy. The first is the personal legacy that we all leave. The second is the legacy that we leave behind with our business. For many private business owners both are important and both need a special type of attention.
Legacy for the Business
Many of us have spent 30 or more years building and running our businesses. We have developed friendships, experienced hardships, and celebrated wins along the way. When the time comes for a new generation to take over and lead the business, we want to make sure there is a legacy or remembrance of what’s come before.
After you launched your business you often played the role of a coach. You would teach your people how to do their jobs and then work with them to develop their own particular expertise. As your business grew and you became more strategic, you would develop a mentoring program where, instead of coaching, you would allow others to step into that role.. This would give you the opportunity to mentor the people in your company you believed had the talent and/or the ability to help the business grow.
Many of our Clients who have moved into their late fifties or sixties, have started talking more about the history of what’s come before. Many times their conversations are about what makes the company special and unique. They often become concerned with the issue of how to pass key information on to the senior people in the company in order to help keep the company’s unique properties alive.
When one starts playing the role of the keeper of the flame, this individual moves from being a mentor to an elder in the company. At this point, the elder has made himself/herself operationally irrelevant in the running of the company. The time is spent on strategic activities, with one activity being the keeper of the flame.
In this particular situation, playing the role of the elder is often what we do before we start building a legacy for ourselves inside the business. If we do a good job of being an elder and building a legacy, the business can continue operating with a moral compass for many years.
The second part of the legacy role is the building of a personal legacy within your family. In this particular role you might want to build your personal legacy along with your spouse, especially if you’ve had a long relationship and have children to whom you would like to impart your values. .
Again, in your personal life you started as a coach for your children, teaching them what was important. You then moved to the role of being a mentor where you might not have taught them on a day-to-day basis, but instead gave them advice, even when it wasn’t wanted or appreciated. As your children became adults and had their own children, you might have started thinking about how you could pass the wisdom you’ve gained to your grandchildren.
When one is passing their wisdom to their grandchildren, they are playing the role of an elder. We find that those families that do a good job of passing their values, morals and ethics to younger generations have a good chance of not experiencing the problem of shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. (Generation one creates the wealth, generation two preserves it, generation three spends the wealth and has to start over.) Elders are the ones who not only set an example, but who also keep the oral history of the family. We suggest either audio taping or video taping these stories so that future generations can look back and see what has come before. In addition, these tapes and videos can be a part of the personal legacy you leave behind.
What are you thoughts about legacy, yours and your businesses? What about the role of elders in that process? Do you think elders have an important role?
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