Visiting my grandpa, Alvin, is a reminder that time is precious and memories should not be wasted. The patriarch of our family ranch has severe Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been several years since he has known my face, and in recent months, even his children are unrecognizable to him.
Yet, if you ask him about the war, farming, his childhood or the cattle, he’s sharp as a tack. Listening to his stories from years gone by is a reminder of the strong and intelligent businessman he once was.
His legacy is truly his family and the ranch that he worked so hard to build. I admire him for the man he is and the sacrifices he made for this family. Each day, he motivates me to be wise in the moves I make in our business as I continue to build on his legacy and create one that my children and grandchildren will one day be proud of.
A recent article from SKM Associates Family Business Consultants titled, “Growing more than just growing financial assets,” provides nine action items that family members in a multi-generation business can do to build wealth and an enterprise that will withstand the test of time.
Here is an excerpt: “Across generations and across cultures, the sentiment is the same: family enterprises and family wealth often does not make it into the third and fourth generations. It doesn’t need to be that way.
“Every family faces challenges to successful, long-term sustainable legacies. For the countless strengths and opportunities giving family enterprises a competitive advantage, business families face unique challenges in setting up the enterprise and the family to be successful for generations to come.”
While no two families are alike, and there is no perfect checklist for success, there are some things SKM encourages enterprising families to do. Here’s nine action items to consider:
1. As a family, write a family mission statement, complete with your family values and beliefs, and discuss what it means to see those values in action.
2. Create an environment of open, clear and direct communication.
3. Define what wealth means to your family legacy.
4. Record family stories through conversations with parents, grandparents and other relatives either through audio, video or written word. You may decide to record the younger generation interviewing their senior family members.
5. Develop clear policies and business norms for family members.
6. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities in the enterprise.
7. Have a plan, in writing, for the transition of the enterprise and assets to the next generation.
8. Establish a fair and equitable exit strategy for those not interested.
9. Help each family member internalize the vision for the family and the enterprise.
The writers remind us that building a legacy is a lifelong process, not a one-time event.
SKM says, “A true family legacy is more than just the legal documents distributing your assets. In order to nurture the legacy, you must understand what your family legacy is.
“A legacy is formed by the sequences of actions that resemble one another and are lived out in each generation. It is the repeated behaviors and actions that shape your family legacy.”
What really resonated with me in this article is the statement, “Your family’s legacy is too important to expect it to ‘just happen.’”
Success isn’t an accident. You don’t just stumble into profitability. You can’t just wish for family unity. You can’t just hope things will all work out.
With a written and clearly communicated plan, on both the day-to-day operations, the long-term strategies and the exit and transition plan in place, everyone will be on the same page and will understand the goals of the business and the family.
SKM says it best when they say, “The legacy you leave is the life you lead.”
For my Grandpa Alvin, he lived a life in tune with the land and the livestock. He may have lost some of his memories, but he’s still a cattleman at heart. I’m proud of what he’s built and what my dad has contributed in the last generation, as well.
Now it’s my turn to make my mark. Even though I’m a “young” 30 years old, it’s never too early to start. If I want a meaningful and impactful legacy for my kids and grandkids, doing nothing is not an option.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.