Lifestyle or Legacy – Part 3

Let’s turn to the Legacy Builders.They are the business owners who have achieved Lifestyle status (as defined in the last posting) but continue to work hard to build their businesses. Their objective is a company that does far more than merely provide a comfortable lifestyle and assure retirement.

A little bit of elimination to start, as we did with the Lifestyle owners. Just as we said a Lifestyle Business was neither a pumped-up hobby nor merely an adjunct to an alternative lifestyle, the Legacy owner isn’t a couple of things that people might normally assume.

Let’s set a baseline. The typical Legacy Builder runs a business that is very capable of continuing its day to day activities independently and indefinitely. Operations, management and sales are handled by competent employees. In fact, each is probably better than the owner at what he or she does. They are in the top 1% of American incomes. It varies widely, but we’ll call it a minimum of $500,000 a year. The Legacy Builder nonetheless chooses to work a full (45-50 hour) week to continue developing and improving the business, and not incidentally adding to its profit.

The Legacy builder is clearly not obsessive-compulsive, a workaholic, or in any other way driven unwillingly to work beyond common sense. It’s easy for observers (and sometimes family) to accuse the Legacy Builder of being enslaved to the job, unable to tear away for a personal life. That isn’t true at all. The Legacy Builders I am describing spend time with family and other pursuits. They coach Little League, attend recitals, and are active in the community. They take nice vacations (usually with family), and live in nice homes (often several of them), but are seldom ostentatious.

It is true that they are frequently missing in the devotion of time to community activities, preferring to fund the work of others. In fairness, I’ve spent a lot of time working in community organizations. There is a lot of wasted time. If I had the money to pay for someone else to do it, I probably would. Legacy Builders don’t like to have their time wasted.

They are also not greedy. Their continued push for improvement is not for the personal gain. They seek greater success for other reasons. As Bill Gates once said, “Money is just a way to keep score.”

I call them the Legacy Builders because they have an eye for a target that is beyond merely running a successful business. They have a bigger picture; a larger objective in mind. Developing an organization that lives beyond their own careers is at the core of their strategy, but it isn’t just monument-building that drives them. It is what that organization can accomplish.

Some are motivated by the benefit to the community that their talent can deliver. More jobs, more people who can provide security for their families. For others it is even a greater community responsibility, the money to form a foundation, or to fund worthwhile causes. For others their family is the motivation. They seek to change the lifestyle of their children, and their children’s children, permanently (or at least for the next few generations).

Many of the Legacy Builders are simply entrepreneurs without a limit on their creative drive. Most business owners have a difficult time looking backwards. Yesterday’s achievements are ancient history. They see no point to basking in past accomplishments when there is so much more that could be done.

Some Legacy Builders attempt things for the thrill of accomplishment. Once attained, the successes immediately become the basis for the next level, the next mountain to climb.

Admittedly, a substantial number of Legacy Builders have a head start when compared to bootstrap entrepreneurs. They achieved a substantial level of success in an existing organization, and used that as a spring board for their own purposes. They may come from a family where there was Legacy-type success in the past. They may have just been lucky. But none of those things explain their push for greater achievement in business when they are long past the point at which most owners would be satisfied; and there are plenty of bootstrap start-ups in the Legacy class to disabuse the notion that the game is fixed at the start.

Most Lifestyle owners say that they really want to reach Legacy levels, but few actually do. In my next post, the last in this series, we’ll look at what it takes to make the leap from Lifestyle to Legacy.

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One Response to Lifestyle or Legacy – Part 3

  1. Trina Hoefling says:

    Great series you're building here, John! Spot on. Thanks, Trina

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