Have you ever heard of an entrepreneur named George Mecherle? How about George Jenkins, William Durant, James Casey, or Paul Orfalea?
While you may not know their names, we are all familiar with the businesses they founded.
George Mercherle founded State Farm Insurance in 1922 in Bloomington, Illinois. Mercherle, who was a retired farmer, thought it was unfair that farmers had to pay the same auto insurance rates as drivers in the big city of Chicago.
George Jenkins founded Publix grocery stores during the Great Depression.
William Durant first founded General Motors, and then, after being forced out of his leadership position in that company, founded Chevrolet.
James Casey launched a bicycle messenger service when he was nineteen. This small business became UPS.
Paul Orfalea was a college student when he took out a $5,000 loan co-signed by his parents to start Kinko’s. His first store sold school supplies to fellow students. He also had one copy machine in the back of the store, selling copies for four cents each. FedEx bought Kinko’s thirty-four years later for $2.4 billion.
There is an important lesson that cuts across all of these entrepreneurs stories.
All of them created great companies that still endure today. During their time, each of them was a well-known business leader. Some of them can be credited with creating completely new industries.
And yet, very few of us remember their founders’ names today.
In the excitement of growing a successful business it is easy to get consumed with the growing recognition your success brings to you from your industry and even the general public. As success continues, you may even begin to contemplate your legacy as a successful entrepreneur.
But recognition and fame can be relatively short-lived. Attention eventually shifts to the next new entrepreneurial success story.
So what really matters in your career as an entrepreneur?
Character. Certainly, the reputation you create as you build your company is important. But your reputation is built on the actions and decisions you make as you start and grow your business. And the actions and decisions you make are what shape your character.
Culture. Your values and priorities become institutionalized through the culture you establish in your business. If intentionally developed, the company’s culture can endure long after an entrepreneur is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.
Family. Although no entrepreneur goes into a new business with the intention of its success coming at the expense of their family, it is a more common unintended outcome than people realize. As you work to build your business, continue to work equally hard on strengthening your marriage and your family. In the end, your family is your only true enduring legacy.
Walt Disney is one entrepreneur who almost everyone recognizes due to the success he had building an entertainment empire that endured long past his death. However, his advice on what is really important in life is what all entrepreneurs should remember.
“A man should never neglect his family for business,” cautioned Disney.