For the majority of business owners, their legacy is determined by how successful they are in passing the business to the next generation.  This often includes succession planning for that business and ensuring the operation remains productive beyond your lifetime. But let’s face it, the traditional nuclear family, – mother, father and two kids (one boy, one girl) in a white house with a picket fence is no longer the norm. We live longer, don’t like big commitments and, due to all the available resources, have the luxury of dreaming like there is no tomorrow. This is why we as women must adjust how we leave a legacy when there may not be a family, a solid business or steady industry growth. The challenge is defining legacy not by what it is, but by what it is not.

Legacy is not leaving your family with a big bill to take care of you economically past your hard-working creative years of successfully growing your business.  

More than one-third (35 percent) of business owners don’t have a retirement plan according to a survey conducted by Manta Trends in 2017). And yet they earn large gains in their lifetime. How is this possible?  People are not coded to instinctively think long term. I have seen way too many successful business owners regret not planning for the long-term in their older years. So please, do yourself a favor and ensure you are taking full advantage of your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and other business owner retirement plans, and have an investment policy statement to grow your assets. Also, hire a good CFP® professional to help you make smart decisions for your profile - not one size fits all here.

Legacy is not leaving your business to be inherited with no instructions in the same document that lists your house, car, furniture, jewelry and investment accounts.  

Your legacy should be established in a legal structure according to your forecasted growth, industry and services/products offered. In addition, you should write a full succession plan for your business with a specific successor in mind. You should then train this person to fill your shoes at any point in your life. Another idea is to sell your business to existing employees or management or establish a plan to sell it to an outside party. In order to create the best path for your business’ legacy consider the type of business, how quickly the cash is needed, the maturity of the business and your team. Communication, transparency and ensuring your wishes align with key legal documents will ensure a smooth transition for your legacy.

Legacy is not leaving your business high and dry or subject to volatility in the industry.  

All responsible business owners must have key insurance policies such as life insurance to cover their business in case of a sudden death. This insurance should cover accidents, disability, protection of assets and include supplemental insurance as necessary. In a nutshell, the policies should ensure that you will not put your business at risk in case of an unforeseeable catastrophe. Another step toward safeguard the future of your business is to create a strategic plan for the next three to five years. This will ensure that your business will survive a difficult season or an economically or politically volatile period. And lastly, you should always have a plan to give back to the community in the area you feel passionate about.  For example, my passion is financial planning and my foundation offers free financial planning workshops.

Your legacy as a woman is to inspire future women business owners by serving as a mentor, such as the CFP Board mentor program. In this role, you can share your expertise so they can get to their goal faster than you did. When you serve and mean well, there’s no need to view everyone as a competitor. There is no better legacy than seeing your advice, recommendations and suggestions planted in someone’s life. Because of you, they enjoy greater prosperity and a higher quality of life and you help make money a positive force in the world.