You might not yet have made your first billion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from those who have.
6 min read
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While there are seemingly countless articles out there about how you can follow billionaires’ work habits to achieve financial success for your business, these articles only capture a small part of the picture. Like many startup founders, these individuals aren’t just concerned about the here and now — they are focused on the future, including what will happen when they are no longer running a business.
Because of this, many billionaires focus on leaving a meaningful legacy for family members, business partners and others — and not just in terms of finances. These same legacy concepts should also be adopted by startup founders who wish to leave a mark long after they leave their company.
1. Billionaires build a legacy through succession planning.
Few people stay in the same job forever — and this even applies to company founders. One need only look at a list of the world’s most famous serial entrepreneurs like Andreas von Bechtolsheim or the Samwer brothers to see that even extremely talented founders don’t necessarily stay with the company they started.
Regardless of whether you hope to sell your company or plan on maintaining your role until you retire, you undoubtedly want it to maintain continued success after you’re gone. A succession plan ensures that your organization is ready to build on your foundation by finding a qualified individual to take your place.
As Leigh Richards writes in a Chron blog post, “At the top levels of the organization, succession planning, by definition, is critical to ensure that these key positions — if suddenly vacant — can be filled by qualified candidates. Identifying the potential for those vacancies and considering internal talent that can be coached, nurtured and trained to step into these slots when the time comes is a key function of not only the H.R. department but in many organizations, of the board as well.”
2. Estate planning is key.
Billionaires are often concerned with how their wealth will be distributed to family members after they pass away. However, these concerns aren’t necessarily shared by the general public. A survey reported on by AARP shows that a mere four out of 10 adults have a will. Numbers are especially low among those aged under 36, where a mere 22 percent have a will or living trust.
Though planning for your own passing isn’t a pleasant thought, startup founders should give this area special attention, particularly if they have children. Making concrete plans now will ensure that your financial resources are distributed in a way you would approve of should the unfortunate occur.
3. Sharing experiences is of paramount importance.
Passing on a financial or managerial legacy via a will or succession plan is, in reality, only a small part of how you should plan for a future. Sharing meaningful experiences from your work life can also have a significant impact.
As David Roy Newby, author of Beyond Billions and founder of Solomon Wisdom Society recently explained to me during a phone conversation, “Your experiences — both your successes and failures — provide irreplaceable learning opportunities for others. Sharing the lessons you’ve learned in business can help family members develop greater perspective when facing their own challenges. It can help a business associate gain the insight needed to overcome an unexpected setback. But they’ll never benefit if you don’t share what you’ve learned.”
In fact, as an article from The Guardian reveals that simply sharing family stories has been found to improve self-esteem and resilience, while also strengthening bonds between family members. Sharing your own unique experiences will provide much-needed strength and perspective for those who come after you.
4. Teaching skills helps others see similar success.
Many billionaires emphasize passing on skills and work experience to future generations.
In fact, the 2018 Global Family Office Report from UBS found that “Nearly a third (29 percent) of respondents reported that the next generation already hold management or executive positions in the family office, while a quarter (23 percent) reported that they sit on the board.”
Though you may not have family members who can directly contribute to your startup’s operations now, there is still something to be said for teaching business concepts and passing on your skills to others.
As you share your knowledge, you can help family members and employees develop strengths that allow them to better serve customers or improve their own skill set. Teaching meaningful skills will ensure better outcomes for them as individuals, and for your company as a whole.
5. Don’t pass on passing on values.
Startup founders bear the responsibility of communicating their company’s mission and value to others within their organization. This is a crucial part of building a lasting legacy within your company, and it will also have a direct impact on the success of your operations now.
A Gallup meta-analysis of nearly 192 businesses in 34 countries found that companies that utilized mission-driven leadership experienced increased employee retention, stronger customer engagement and strategic alignment and even better decision-making. Consistently and effectively communicating your values within your company can completely transform the behaviors of those who work for you.
Of course, you must also pass on values to your family members. Demonstrating principles of hard work and grit, or simply taking the time to do charity work together with your family, can teach far greater lessons than words alone.
As president and co-founder of the Billionaire Foundation, Sheila Barry Driscoll has worked with hundreds of billionaire families. In a recent email, she explained to me, “One of the biggest mistakes billionaire (and other wealthy) families make is that they don’t teach their children how to give. They must be taught how to give, how to share, and how to put others before themselves.”
As you reveal your values through your actions in the workplace and at home, you build a legacy that won’t fade with time. Building a meaningful legacy doesn’t happen by accident.
It requires a conscious effort in your day to day interactions with coworkers, family members and business associates. Even as a startup entrepreneur, by making these areas a key priority as you plan for the future, you can have confidence in the legacy you’re leaving behind.