How Small Business Owners Can Build a Legacy

family business legacy

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When we think about a small business, we often think of companies that are started from a kitchen table or in a garage. We also often think of building a legacy with that business for the ones that will come after us. The idea of leaving behind something bigger than ourselves or the business we started is a very enticing concept for many entrepreneurs.

What a Legacy Means in Business

Building a legacy for your business rather than your personal legacy is slightly different. Your personal legacy is the impact your actions will have after you are gone. Your business’ legacy is the impact it will make on its culture, community, and customers after you have either sold or passed on your business to someone else. Mission statements often are based on the legacy an entrepreneur is hoping to achieve with the business.

A business legacy is often associated with a family business. Many entrepreneurs start their business with the intention of passing it down to a family member, especially their children.

Although family businesses have low rates of success in the second generation and even lower in the third generation, family businesses are still one of the big draws of entrepreneurship in the first place. In these cases, a legacy can be about building something that can easily be a vehicle for success and growth for loved ones.

Mars candy is an example of a business legacy rooted in family ties. Started by Frank Mars in 1911, it remains a privately owned company with the Mars family making up the board of directors.

Building a Legacy for Your Industry

Creating a business legacy for your industry can be a little more involved than a general business legacy. General business legacies are about the impact on communities and culture, but an industry legacy is about the people and organizations that are a part of your specific business niche.

In many ways, an industry legacy is more difficult to build. This is because your industry is probably full of other businesses that do exactly what you do, too. The key here is to be exceptional in ways your competitors and colleagues are not. In theory, this should already be on your to-do list because your unique selling proposition (USP) relies on you doing something the others don’t do. But in practice, your industry legacy must also affect the industry in a way that is bigger than your business.

One example of an industry legacy is Apple’s introduction on the iPhone in 2007. The smartphone was the first of its kind, introducing a number of new innovations. It took years for other phone companies to introduce comparable innovations. At this point, no matter what happens in the future, the iPhone has cemented Apple’s legacy in the mobile handset industry.

Legacy and Goal Setting

Leaving a legacy means living a legacy. The day-to-day actions of you and your business will be the bricks on which the legacy is built. It starts with a long-term mindset. Define what matters and make sure that you have long-term visions that match it. That vision will become your business’ guiding light. All decisions, all product development, all marketing campaigns will come back relate back to the vision, which is related to what matters most to your business legacy.

Goal setting is an important part of building a business legacy. By setting goals, you’ll define your path and also have a benchmark to compare your progress. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re setting these goals:

  • Each goal must tie back to the vision of the legacy you want to build.
  • Goals must be descriptive, specific, and measurable to be effective.
  • Smaller, defined goals are better than large sprawling goals because you are more likely to achieve them when they are realistic.

Remember that goals are only as valuable as they are achievable. If you purposely set goals that your business is unlikely to meet, you’ll just set yourself up for failure. This can impact company morale and future initiatives to build your business legacy. 

Although the meaning of legacy can vary depending on whether you are looking at yourself, your business, or your industry, the goal is the same––make an impact that stands the test of time.