BLOG: The Power of Legacy

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As business leaders, managers, and owners, our days often revolve around jumping from one fire to another.  In the hailstorm of client issues, vendor problems, or employee challenges, our day-to-day time often gets wrapped up in immediate, urgent business issues.

Rarely, if ever, do we get the luxury to consider the positive impact we have on those we meet, to ponder how we will be remembered.   The hectic daily world often prevents us from pondering what our legacy will be.

The fact is: we do impact those around us with our words and actions.  Each day, in large or small ways, we are building our legacy.  Each day, we craft how we will be seen and when we die, how will we be remembered by others. There are 3 key groups of people that we create a legacy with, that we impact, through our actions in the in day-to-day life and within the workplace.

Employees & Key Stakeholders: Many businesses have entry-level employees, earning less than $30,000 per year. These foundational employees are the backbone of an organization, working on an assembly line, preparing or serving food at restaurant, or handling customer service calls like the employees at Apple Tree Answers, an outsourced call center that was recently sold by founder John Ratliff to Stericycle.  Prior to selling the company, Ratliff and his wife Emily were trying to develop a way to improve the employee experience of their front line staff members.  To accomplish that objective, they created the Dream On program, modeled after the Make-A-Wish charities.  The employees submit dreams they would like to have granted by the company.  Sometimes, co-workers submit dreams on behalf of their fellow workers.  The impact of the program has been profound, changing the lives of hundreds of Apple Tree answers employees.  One employee stated the honeymoon trip the company provided her was one of the top three experiences of her life.    The Dream On program helps to get owners of the company in touch with their employees and what they go through.

“I have enjoyed getting  involved with bettering the lives of our employees….we exist to serve the people that are here to help us”, says Ratliff.

Community: Sam Cupp was an incredibility successful entrepreneur, owning 25 companies, with more than 2000 employees and $300 million dollars in annual revenue.  All of those accomplishments weren’t enough for Cupp, he wanted to impact the community of Warren, where he grew up.  He realized how important motivation and education where, and was concerned that local schools were not able to help all the students within their systems.  Rather than looking for someone else to fix the problem, in 1994, he created “Winning Futures”, a comprehensive strategic planning and mentoring program designed to assist students in goal setting, achievement, and five-year planning. Today, Winning Futures has impacted over 30,000 students across the country and awarded over $1.7 million in scholarships to local teens.

Complete Strangers:  A highly accomplished vice president I know was on vacation in Chicago over Thanksgiving in 2016, doing some Christmas shopping at the high-end retail stores on the Miracle Mile.  She had a very successful sales year and decided to reward herself with an expensive Coach purse.  It was a windy, bitter-cold, lake effect morning and she was hustling to get out off the street and into the stores.  Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a woman and her two young children huddled together in a cutout between two stores.  They were homeless.  She reached into her wallet and gave the woman $20 and moved on with her shopping.

As she continued to shop, the woman and her children kept popping into her thoughts. She noticed a Chicago Police Officer near the corner where the woman and her children where and asked him if he knew the family.  To her surprise, he did know them and explained to her that woman had lost her job and her home and that the homeless shelters were currently at full occupancy.  He explained to her that the woman “was one of the good people out here, a real victim of bad luck.” Upon hearing this heartbreaking story, the woman reached into her pocket and gave the police officer the money she had saved for her Coach Purse and told him to use the money and get that family into a hotel and some food for those children.  The officer agreed to do that and took her number to keep in touch.

As of this March, the homeless woman now has an apartment for her family, a full time job with room for advancement, and her children are back in school and doing well.  On a recent business trip to Chicago, my friend was invited by the woman and her children to spend the day together.  During that visit, the youngest child shared an essay that she wrote about her hero, who helped get her family off of the streets.

It’s all within your power, your words are your power, your actions are your power.

Another opportunity to leave a positive legacy is to think of someone who has impacted you professionally. Chances are, you didn’t share with them the impact they had on you, their legacy within you.  Challenge yourself to find that person who has left a positive legacy on you, maybe via Linked In or Facebook, and thank them.  Share with them how they made a difference in your world.  Most likely, they had no idea.  Regular people can — and do — make a difference.

Todd Palmer is founder and president of Troy-based Diversified Industrial Staffing and Diversified PEOple LLC and a regular contributor to DBusiness.​

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