What Do You Leave Behind?

Friday, June 17 2016
LegacyI’m currently on a short sabbatical. Four of us are taking a couple of months to drive a pair of small RVs from Southwestern Ontario to Alaska.

It’s provided some much needed time to observe, think and reflect on life’s bigger pictures.
This is such a vast country! We’ve travelled through cultured farmland, rugged hills and blue lakes of the Canadian Shield, incredible hardwood and evergreen forests, seemingly endless flatlands and prairies, rolling hills and the Rocky Mountains. Along the way we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly; areas of breathtaking natural beauty, huge clear-cut swaths, unsightly open pit mines, and an alarming number of auto graveyards.

Meanwhile, I am reading The Great Blackfoot Treaties, an analysis of the treaties made between First Nations Peoples of the Prairies and Europeans.

This mix of experiences provides perspective about how much can change in a few hundred years compared to how little changed over the previous millenniums. On one hand, I consider the impact humans have inflicted on this beautiful land and wonder what legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. As business owners, what responsibility do we have for the future of our country and our planet? On the other hand, I wonder what any one individual can do that will make a meaningful difference.

A lot, if you are Warren Buffet, or David Suzuki. Buffet has pledged to donate 99 percent of his nearly $67 billion to charity and has asked other wealthy Americans to give away 50% to help those in need. Check out Suzuki’s foundation mission, vision and goals for a great example of expressing a clear statement of what you stand for and what you intend your organization to become:  Our vision is that within a generation, Canadians act on the understanding that we are all interconnected and interdependent with nature.

But what can you do if you’re a regular small business owner with an operation that feeds your family, provides some perks, and will hopefully supplement your retirement? Each of us can leave a legacy. It takes planning and forethought. You might:

  • Donate a percentage of the sale price of your business to charity.
  • Buy a life insurance policy that pays out to your favourite charity when you die.
  • Develop a Triple Bottom Line framework for your business – social, environmental and financial.
  • Give back to your community through volunteering, hiring those with physical, social or intellectual challenges, or sponsoring charitable events.
  • Be a good parent, mentor and example to your children.

We can all make a difference, no matter how small. What will you leave behind?