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At a recent Haines Watts working group, I sat down with 10 business owners to talk about the nature of leadership – and what motivates them day in, day out.

Somewhat surprisingly, only two members of the group mentioned legacy as a key motivation. As a business owner myself, I am inspired to aim higher and work harder by the idea that I will leave something of value behind. I understand not all leaders feel the same, but why is the concept of legacy losing its appeal?

What you leave behind

I started by asking myself what ‘legacy’ actually means. Is it about immortalising the family name above the door? Bringing an exciting and innovative new product to market? Introducing new working or management practices? Inspiring the next generation?

Leaving a healthy legacy – I believe – is not necessarily about promoting yourself a figurehead or shouting about your successes. In fact, it’s not even about you.

Legacy is about caring what happens next – to your business, your people and your customers. If you’re focused on your payday rather than your legacy, you’re likely to target short-term gains at the expense of building a robust, future-proofed business.

After all, you’re setting the pace of the company, providing a runway for future talent and determining its reason for being on a daily basis, all of which build value over time.

More about personal gain

I also feel strongly that a business owner who rejects the idea of a legacy is missing out on an opportunity to discover personal meaning, structure and direction. But more importantly, they are at risk of undermining the eventual sale price too.

As the owner, how you feel about your team – whether that is respect, trust, satisfaction, frustration, disappointment or otherwise – is amplified down the ranks of your organisation. If you don’t care how your people see you or what happens after you’re gone, morale, productivity, staff retention – and, ultimately, the value of your business – will suffer.

Plan a legacy to succeed

This brings me back to a topic we cover regularly with our customers at Haines Watts. Business planning is essential to the success of any company, of any size, because it makes you look up from your day-to-day duties and take a future view.

Why legacy is such an important part of that process is because, ironically, focusing your attention on the distant future brings business benefits today. Know your destination – it makes for a much smoother journey.

How are you building your business legacy?

Read more:

Succession and business exit planning

Is now the time to change your leadership style?

Want to know more? Call us on 01604 746760 or email

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