Originally published on AllBusiness.com.
Recently, I attended a local networking event, and we had a speed networking element where we’d walk up to another attendee and ask a scripted question. Rather than the easy “what do you do?”-type softball questions, we had to ask much more thought-provoking questions, like “What do you want to be remembered for in your business?”
Immediately, I bristled when this question came up. I didn’t need to change the world with my content marketing firm; I didn’t need to be remembered for anything. But the question continued to eat at me. What did I want my legacy to be?
It’s important to stop and reflect on what you want your business legacy to be—and then make it happen.
At first, I understood the question to mean how we wanted to be remembered when we died, like on our epitaph:
Susan was a really great writer and made her clients’ businesses look fantastic.
Er, I didn’t have any illusions about that making it to my headstone, nor did I need my entire life to be defined by the work I did. After hearing other people’s answers, I began to dive deeper into the question. If I looked at it from the perspective of what did I want my clients to remember me for after working with my company, what would I strive for?
Making the Industry a Better Place
I’m not curing cancer with my writing. I’m not even turning people into billionaires. But I pride myself on what my team and I do: provide professional-quality writing to help small businesses connect with their audiences. We help companies that don’t have the in-house resources to do what we do best: create content that brands them.
I like to think I’ve educated my fair share of business owners about what great content should look like. I can’t tell you how many have approached my company wanting to either a) pay us $5 an article or b) have us write keyword-stuffed content. Even when I pick apart their ideas, they’re usually grateful to better understand this area that I’m an expert in, and why they should pay for great writing rather than farm it out overseas.
So, no, I’m not changing the world. But I like to hope that maybe someone who has long dreamed of starting a business reads one of my articles and finds it within him- or herself to finally take that leap. I hope that my clients get the content we create for them spread far and wide online. I hope people talk about what we write.
It’s a simple goal. But that’s the thing—your answer doesn’t have to be lofty or aspirational. It just has to be genuine.
Let Me Turn the Question Around on You
You knew where this was heading, surely. You’ve probably been asking yourself the question since I first put it out there.
What do you want people (clients and beyond) to remember about you and your brand?
What’s the single thing you’d like them to tell others about your company? What do you want to be known for?
It’s okay if you don’t have an answer immediately. I didn’t at first, either. And, the truth is, you might not be there yet in terms of having established your brand as something people take note of. But entrepreneurship is all about growth, so if you’re not there yet, think about what you’d like to be known for. It’s kind of like working in reverse: decide how you’d like to be remembered, then work on being that thing.
Let’s say you run a financial advisor company and want to be remembered for taking the stress and worry out of people making financial decisions. How can you work toward that goal now? Maybe hold free financial planning workshops once a month. Or maybe you want to be remembered for your contribution to your local community. How can you get more involved? Perhaps join your local business association or sponsor a community event.
We can always do more to be that thing we want to be remembered for. Constantly remembering that objective will keep you aligned with it as you grow your business over time. It’s easy to lose sight of what you first wanted in your business as you expand, add team members, and offer more services or products. But it’s what you should keep at the core of all you do.
It’s why you got into business; it’s why you do what you do.
So how do you want to be remembered?