Question 1: “What is the legacy we are creating through this business?”

One of the key questions I recommend every family business ask itself is: “What is the legacy we are creating through this business?” 

Let’s spend a few minutes exploring the meaning of “legacy.” Merriam-Webster defines legacy as: “1. a gift by will especially of money or other personal property”; and “2. Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

If we combine these two definitions, we can say legacy is a gift from an ancestor or from the past. So, when we talk about the legacy we are creating through our business, what we are actually asking is: “By building our family business, what is the gift we plan to give to the future?”

There are a number of important reasons for investing time in answering this question. If you have watched Simon Sinek’s popular TED talk video, you will know that the answer to this question about your business legacy will help define your “Why”. This is critical to establishing a business foundation that will drive everything you do, from deciding what products or services to offer and how to market them to the kind of people you hire.

Discussing this legacy question with the family members involved in your family business, and coming to an agreement about the answer, also ensures that everyone is on the same page and moving in a single direction. If you get in a car and start driving without first deciding where you are going, everyone in the car may have a different idea about where you are headed. This makes choosing the best route impossible. Once everyone agrees on the same destination, the discussion shifts from disagreement to how you’re going to get there. This applies to your family business, too. 

Of course, there are countless answers to this question and some family businesses may find they have multiple “gifts” they wish to give. It may be a legacy that supports future generations who carry on the business; a plan to enrich the lives of your employees and their families; or the gift your business gives to clients. The next time you have a family business meeting, put this question on the agenda. Agreeing on your business legacy is essential to creating a clear path towards the future.

The next blog article will explore the related question: “What is the legacy we, as a family, stand for?” Click here to access the complete list of Questions Families Should Ask About Their Family Business.