**Originally Written March 9, 2016**
Look I know the title seems absurd but I wanted to get your attention and it seems I am successful. But you can achieve immortality, just not the way you think. When creating a business most people are focused on making it past the dreaded 18- 24-month mark. Then you get to the 10-year mark and you’ve expanded. 50-year mark. 100-year mark but by this time you are long gone. If the business you started with two nickels you rubbed together is bigger and better than ever, then my friend you have achieved immortality. You have built a legacy. Now building a great business where people trust you and adore you is only part of the equation. So in this piece, I will explore how to reach James Pemberton's (Coca-Cola) and Ray Kroc's (McDonald’s) status.
One of the ways to achieve immortality is to get the business right. I know you see me write this over and over in my commentary and my other writings but it's too important not to mention. When conducting business, remember to write a business plan and get your price points right to allow your doors to stay open. However, when we talk about leaving a legacy you must remember that it goes beyond profit margins and earnings reports. You must maintain a high degree of ethics and accountability. Far too often startups are willing to sacrifice morals for a buck. This leads to consumers not really being able to trust them. Especially in today's climate when Millennials, the largest demographic on the planet, are willing to spend more money on not only a better product but we tend to also heavily consider if the company has a goal of making the world a better place as well. This is the reason for-benefit corporations are increasing in number. So if you deal with a supplier in your business make sure they are not associated with anything illegal or immoral even if they are the cheaper option. Doing business with them anyway can lead to a negative public perception and a very damaged legacy that may be hard to come back from.
BE A PHILANTHROPIST
As far as I am concerned when you are doing business you are obligated to do charitable works in the community you are housed in or, at least, engage in a charity that is near and dear to your heart. You should be concerned with not only turning a profit but also making the world a better place. It does not take much to be socially active. You could sponsor a local veterans group. Maybe even host a fundraiser for a specific cause. Anything with kids is usually a good thing. At OWLS, we often go out into the community and speak to youth on a myriad of topics. Also, we donate money and time to many organizations. As business strategists, Junior Achievement means a lot to us because they try to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Full disclosure: we absolutely take the tax advantages that come with donating money and, yes, donating time does raise our brand awareness which could lead to more business down the road. More importantly, you want the world to know that not only were you great at generating revenue and offering great value but that you made the best effort possible using the platform of your business to leave the world better off than you left it. Your customers will appreciate this.
CREATE AN EXCELLENT CULTURE
One of the easiest parts of creating a great legacy is having a great company culture. I don't mean letting people doing things that contradict your company policy. I'm talking about creating a mini-society with rules that make everyone feel invested and wanting do the best job they can. It really doesn't cost you much to pull it off. For starters, value your staff's opinion.................wait let's stop right there! Instead of calling them staff or employees let's go with team members or partners. The former is a constant reminder that you are over them (they already know that) while the latter makes them a part of the process of company innovation. While we’re on the subject of titles, think about using creative, awesome job titles. Who wouldn’t want to be a software ninjaneer? Next, think about offsite retreats or bonding moments. Host your next team meeting at a restaurant or a bowling alley, anywhere that is not the office. You may also consider once in a while doing something together that does not involve work at all. Sometimes things like annual kids day at an amusement park can help make your team members see your human side. Starting a bowling team helps build camaraderie and trust amongst one another. Fostering a culture of leaders will let your team members know that upward mobility is a possibility. Lastly, hire great people that will fit your company culture, and don't be afraid to think outside the box. At OWLS, we don't take applications (yuck!). We do take resumes along with the results of the 16 Personalities Test.
Some owners have gone above and beyond. There are countless stories to prove this but I'll sum it up in one example. A while back an entrepreneur was diagnosed with a terminal disease and had maybe a few months to live. When he passed away the people in the company were very upset because they loved him dearly and loved to work for him. They told many stories of how he was a great boss and cared about them well beyond what they did for the company. Still, the reality was that they needed to find another job.......or so they thought. They were all asked to come to work the next day to talk with the entrepreneur's lawyer. The lawyer read a letter that the entrepreneur wrote thanking them for their hard work and loyalty to him and the company. He even wrote about good times he shared with some of them. Then, in his last act as the owner, while he was dying, he wanted to show them just how grateful he was to them. So, he left the company to the employees. He said he wouldn't trust anyone else to run it. That moment would not exist without the great company culture he created and the trust he gained in return. Stories like these cement legacies and set examples for future generations of entrepreneurs to come. Each time stories like these are passed down that legacy is extended even more.
WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Cementing a legacy leaves a lasting impression on the people you hire, the community you serve, and the customer you serve. Making sure the business is running right will earn you a flock of mentees ready to learn from the best. When they are successful they will credit you as the catalyst for their success. Being active in the community will show that it was never just about making the extra buck but about being part of the betterment of society. Creating a great company culture can pay dividends you never expected. There are countless stories of companies with such a great culture that when the business fell on hard times it was the team members that saved the business by staying longer hours, working willingly without a paycheck for a while, and in some extreme cases, team members have forfeited pensions and benefits just to save the business. So when people think of (enter your name here) 100 years from now, you want them to think about the great entrepreneur, the tireless philanthropist, and the type of boss everyone wants to work for as evidence of the mark you left on the world. Failing to consider your legacy when you run a business can lead to a bad reputation or worse being forgotten in the annals of history as if you never existed.