Member Article

What legacy is your business leaving?

Have you ever stopped to think about what your legacy will be? I’m not talking about a sum of money that you will leave to your progeny, but the values and principles that you pass on.

While most of us will strive to make a positive impact on those around us, there is also the longer term to consider. As each new generation matures, they carve out their own path through life. Some legacies persist — for better or worse — and others are washed away by the tide of time.

With the world facing unprecedented existential threats, the legacy that a business leaves has never been more important. As business leaders, we have to consider not only our own legacy, but the legacy of our organisations too.

Establishing a strong ethos The principles by which we live our lives will be reflected in our legacy. It is vital that we go through life with a strong ethos, a moral code from which we do not deviate. Only then can we be sure that we will not harm others in the pursuit of our dreams.

However, it should be an equally important part of our ethos that we should give back to society by imparting our wisdom and leaving our world in a better place than we found it. This applies just as much to an individual as it does to a business. An organisation should be aware of the impact it has on its workers, its customers, the local community and the world as a whole — not just in the present but in the long term too.

Seek guidance and mentorship In my experience, entrepreneurs and business leaders always have a clear idea of what their objectives are and how they will achieve them, but in many cases they haven’t thought about what they will leave behind when they have moved on.

While we lead by example, even CEOs require others to lead us. Find suitable mentors from your network: those who share a similar outlook with you; those who you admire; and those who have achieved success. Talk about your long-term vision for your business — not just what happens after you’ve gone, but how you want it to be perceived in several generations’ time. In order for that perception to become reality, you will need to establish strong principles for your organisation.

Share your ethos Teams require shared goals in order to function effectively. But ideal outcomes shouldn’t be the only thing a team shares. There is also a need for broad agreement about how the team should go about its business, what values and principles it adheres to and what red lines and boundaries should never be crossed. It is fundamental, then, that you hire people with the right qualities to understand and abide by the ethos of the organisation.

It is also crucial that the ethos of the business can be clearly communicated. It also needs to be authentic, something that everyone can understand and get behind; no empty, meaningless buzzwords. Keep it short and to the point, and put it where it can be seen on a regular basis — on your website, in the meeting rooms and on the office walls. Not only should it be written down, it should be something that all employees know by heart. This way the ethos can pervade everything that your business does.

Practise what you preach You will also need to examine every aspect of what your business does to ensure you abide by this ethos at all times. Review your business practices, your partnerships, the suppliers you use and their practices too. Of course, environmental concerns should be central to your thinking here. As I mentioned previously, the world finds itself in a precarious position; organisations need to ensure that they are not only doing no harm to the environment, but actively seeking to improve it and reverse the damage that has been done in the past.

The objective should be that not only is your business beyond reproach, but that it sets an example for other businesses to follow. Additionally, make it an objective of your entire business to constantly reflect on your practices and improve them all the time. Finally, make sure that you are accountable; invite scrutiny from staff, customers, suppliers, regulators and the general public.

Life is a journey. Whether it’s our personal, social or professional life we are talking about, we all have dreams and we will go through a number of challenging experiences in order to reach our goals.

Whether or not we achieve our aims isn’t the important thing. It’s how we go about achieving our ambitions that counts. We need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and know that we acted with integrity always. It is more important than ever that businesses strive to create a positive legacy, ensuring that everything they do helps make a better tomorrow.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Floyd Woodrow .

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