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What I Wish Someone Had Told Me…

There is rumored to be a method to the madness for moving and rising above the change as a business and as a business owner of 20 years, I’ve yet to find the person in successful possession of that method. The truth is, the word ‘method’ tends to imply that there is a charted path, a fail-proof guide, and a successful way to move through to a solution. The landscape of business operation, in all facets, is everchanging and does not allow for the use of a seasoned playbook but instead calls for a keen perspective, willingness to risk it all, and a whole lot of faith.

If you are reading this, you are likely a business owner, manager or aspiring entrepreneur looking for insight from those who have been there and done that. It’s important to remember that ‘been there and done that’ doesn’t imply a constantly successful climb to profitable achievement, but a journey filled pegs down the latter and lessons learned through mistakes. It is my belief, as a business owner, that mistakes are never wished for but are often the very things that teach us the most. If you’re searching for a realistic approach to navigating the everchanging landscape in a way that continually propels you forward, you’re in the right place.

I will start by saying that becoming a business owner was not always something I knew I wanted to do. Matter of fact, the younger me often questioned whether I had enough of what it takes to go into battle – the tough outer coat, the inner fortitude, the sharp and quick intellect, the ability to ebb and flow at the drop of dime, or a few thousand as it may be. As an older, more established business owner, I am no longer faced with these questions thanks to a few bruises and tenure with the type of experiences that alter your vantage and create a strong circle of influence. Now, I am faced with bigger, more long-term questions of how to take what I’ve built and assure that it is something that continues to be fresh and relevant for the next generations – more formally referred to as battling legacy disease. Legacy disease is most often characterized by a root in tradition that prohibits progressiveness to keep a business relevant with the most common symptom being a belief that the methods that have always been successful will continue to be. While this is sometimes true, it is more often a roadblock that prohibits businesses from moving with the necessary change. I get it: change is intimidating and requires a load of faith that the change that has presented itself is viable enough to adapt to profitably.

I’ve been in business for decades and could just as easily choose to stay comfortable and to allow what has been to continue to be. I could then be faced with the reality of my business becoming a thing of the past and simply just part of my legacy, without the option for that very ‘legacy’ to carry on. Tell me, would you rather be remembered for all that you accomplished and your movements of change become a part of history, in whatever capacity, or would you rather our movements of change evolve into movements to impact future generations? Who and what is the reason for your change making?

However, if I choose to continue refreshing and redefining the business within the current industry culture and ever-changing B2B market, I have the opportunity to create more of a living legacy. Building a legacy is different than building a business and it is these variances that help business owners decide who they are and what they want their business ultimately to be. Tell me, would you rather be remembered for all that you accomplished and your movements of change become a part of a history or would you rather your movements of change evolve into movements to impact future generations? Bottom line: who and what is the reason for your change making?

Are you building a business or building a legacy? You’ve gone into business for yourself, and you’ve likely figured out (or at least identified) all the nuances of owning a business. You’ve established monthly revenue goals, properly managed labor costs and inventory, created alliances and resources, and a healthy profit and loss balance. Is this enough for you? Are you meeting a need and are you fulfilled in that? If so, you are building a business. If this is simply not enough for you, and you need there to be more purpose in what you’re doing and why; then you are building a legacy. Building a legacy requires bigger-picture thinking for more long-term impact.

After 36 years in business, and 18 years of ownership; battling legacy disease is certainly not for the faint of heart. It requires pushing outside your comfort zone to rattle the cage a little, making changes that produce forward movement. I remember part of the negotiations to purchase my business included honoring the legacy of the previous owner. We learn from our history, and if we don’t, we are destined to repeat mistakes. The history of my business is a large part of who we are today and is at the core of the structure of the business. But, the biggest challenge when facing legacy disease is figuring out how to prevent your history from being that which is boxed up and carried along with you to something that acts more as a catalyst for positive change and evolution.

I don’t know that this is the answer, but it is certainly mine. I choose to hold the history of my business as a light to the future, rather than a box full of memories. Those very things that have made my business successful to date, are at the core of what will propel it into the next generation. Whether it be in the business culture, like the mascot statue whose head is rubbed before every game, or it serves as more of a roadmap for how to take what is good and make it better. Either way, change evolves from a constant which can no longer be contained in its current state.

Staying relevant and fresh is a choice. If your choices as a business owner are derived strictly from procedural focuses and operational handicaps, your forward movement towards creating longevity is limited to what you know. Let you forward movement result from the unknown, so that your opportunities are not limited to ‘the way it is’, but rather to the way it could be. If we have learned nothing more from the disruption of the last nearly two years, we have certainly learned that staying relevant is all subjective to current situations and that we must be able to move…at the drop of a dime, or a few thousand as it may be.

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