Building A Legacy in Business

At one point in our career, many people pause to consider how we can impact the future for others and whether we are building a legacy. As Charles Dickens stated, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” The drive to benefit others in a lasting way is the motivation to leave a legacy. Let’s dive into this discussion of building a legacy in business!

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Table of Contents:

  1. Legacy Definition: What It Is & What It’s Not
  2. Building A Business Legacy
  3. Legacy Examples
  4. Tips and Inspiration for Building a Legacy
  5. Family Businesses and Legacies

Legacy Definition: What It Is & What It’s Not

It is essential to know the definition of legacy if you plan on leaving a legacy. The limited definition of a legacy is: a gift – usually an amount of money or personal property – left by will. In a broader sense, the definition of legacy encompasses something of value left behind by an ancestor or predecessor.

Legacies have been a powerful part of societies for as long as humans have existed. Research shows that when people have benefited from the legacy of a prior generation, they are more likely to make long-term oriented decisions. Consideration of building a legacy is also helpful in influencing people in roles of power to do good. Research has shown that when people consider a long-term timeframe, they are more concerned with social responsibility.

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So – what is a legacy and what is it not? Building a legacy means creating something enduring that can be passed on. This might be a physical business or work toward affecting change through a cause. A business legacy is not simply the “thing,” such as a startup or a product, but also its ability to endure through generations.

When identifying what your legacy will be, ask yourself: “What do I have of value to pass on?” You may also consider your circle of influence. Ask yourself which individuals could contribute to your legacy project. Another approach to identifying the steps for building a legacy is to think about the end goal and work backward from there. What do you want to be remembered for?

Building A Business Legacy

Building a business legacy takes time. The important thing is to start today. What do you want your business legacy to be? What is your unique contribution to the business world? No matter where you are in your career, it’s not too late to begin building a business legacy. Even late career professionals can begin building a legacy. In many cases, these professionals have already built the foundation of their legacy in the form of skills, knowledge, and connections. Simply making the decision to build a legacy will accelerate its formation.

Legacy Examples

Legacy examples are numerous. Think of legendary innovators like Steve Jobs that left a unique imprint on the world through their work. The iPhone may be a simple legacy example, but it’s a powerful one. Other well-known legacy examples include historic figures like Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, etc.

Tips and Inspiration for Building a Legacy

While building a legacy isn’t as simple as following a checklist, these 7 tips may serve as inspiration to get started today:

  1. Decide what legacy you want to create
  2. Start creating it today
  3. Simplify your life and focus on the essentials
  4. Treat everyone with kindness
  5. Serve to the best of your ability
  6. Do the next right things
  7. Remind yourself that you have limited time

It’s also important to recognize barriers to building a legacy. A number of factors that can act as legacy blockers include:

  1. Lack of focus
  2. Living the life others want you to live
  3. Bitterness, anger, and fear
  4. Consumerism
  5. Urgencies that smother priorities
  6. Safety
  7. Defeatism – thinking it won’t matter

Family Businesses and Legacies

Owners of family businesses are all too familiar with the intricacies and complications that come with building a legacy. Few family businesses endure beyond the second generation often due to family differences in management styles and lack of financial planning. Only 13% of family businesses make it to the third generation.

When it comes to family business and building a legacy, it’s important to create a succession plan. As one law firm points out, a formal, legally binding succession plan is a necessity. After that is in place, do the following:

  1. Identify who will run the business.
  2. Map out how ownership of the business will be passed on to successors.
  3. Consider the tax implications of passing on the business and how to deal with them.
  4. Create a process for buying out an owner.
  5. Make stipulations regarding ownership. Consider if ownership has to pass onto family members. Potentially consider successors beyond your family tree.
  6. Meet with an attorney to make a legally binding succession plan. The plan can be updated as circumstances change, but having an established one is preferable to none.


Ultimately, building a legacy demands preparation, time, and commitment. The key takeaway for those interested in leaving a legacy is that construction should start immediately. Reference the above recommended steps, and get started today! Remember that actions, not thoughts, build legacies.


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Filed Under: business consulting, Corporate Training