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Berkonomics

Everyone loves to leave a legacy.

                Be honest now.  Have you ever thought of what legacy you’ll leave behind?  If you are an entrepreneur or CEO, surely you’ve thought of how you’ll be remembered by your associates and stakeholders after you move on. 

                We’ve all heard the stories of tough SOB bosses that took advantage of employees, vendors, even stock holders.  And such stories do get around.  How many people who know those stories are willing to trust their next chapter to that person’s next act?  In my past, I made it a practice to hold exit interviews personally with nearly all separating employees, gaining insights from them they would not be willing to share while still employed with the company.

                And invariably, I’d end each with a handshake and the admonition: “I want us to part as friends. We never know how we’re going to meet again, perhaps with the shoe on the other foot.”  I did not know for many years, until a most successful reunion planned by my former executives bringing back over a hundred past employees, how much that and other signs of respect and dignity for the employee-associate made our workplace rare and desirable.

 [Email readers, continue here…]  I used to receive a list of birthdays for the next month from my assistant, culling the information from the corporate books spanning offices in many countries.  Once a month, I would maintain the ritual of going to the local gift shop and buying enough birthday cards to fit each employee or associate.  And once a month, while watching TV, I spend part of an evening writing personal messages to each birthday employee, recalling an event or complimenting a behavior or success.  Such amazing accidental returns for such a small gesture.  Even today, years later, I am met at industry events by former employees with a common refrain, “Our company was the best employer I have ever had, before or since.”

                That is a legacy you cannot buy, at a cost of acknowledging individuals with respect and personal recognition.  And what do I remember about that ten-plus year experience, among the thrills of rapid growth, great workplace, and great lucrative exit?  Most of all, it is those personal moments of contact with former employees, each recalling with appreciation their time at this one company.

  • James Fallon

    I made the mistake of employee compassion. We paid monthly profit sharing, paid all education costs, most legal costs including divorce, bankruptcy and DUI. Rather than motivate employees it made then
    less productive, more ‘entitled’.

    When I work, I don’t want friends, I have friends.
    I want people that have a drive to succeed and are
    committed to success. These 8-5 employees that bring all their human baggage and problems to the office, no thanks.

    My legacy, is my private life and good works. Work does not validate my life.

  • Dave I thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. For me the word that comes to mind is compassion. We are a team, all equals. Having compassion for one another is a true gift that brings gratitude. Treating each other with kindness, respect, empathy and dignity brings the fruit of positive memories and legacies. Always doing the “next best right thing” at MSI or at home helps create an environment of trust and support. I feel our actions mean much more than our words. When we act out of compassion and not self interest it helps us stay on that path.

  • Les Walker

    Very timely insights as we prepare our New Year Kick Off and Strategic Plan!

  • Jim Jaime Edwards

    You are gracious in your soul – me thinks the values were in place before the business life and success. It is also a valuable strategy to create a work environment and reputation of work environment where your most successful competitor’s most successful employees – given the opportunity – would prefer to work.

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