Starting a business, any business, is an incredibly rewarding experience. Even more rewarding is watching that business become something even greater: a successful business. It takes years of hard work and commitment to grow a business you’re proud of. Those in the business world refer to this pattern of growth, specifically its end result, as legacy. A legacy business is one that is founded on strong values, excellent customer service, and has a strong company culture. A legacy business is one that the owner can one day look back on with pride knowing that he or she has created something great.

When I founded AYC (At Your Convenience) Fitness in 1986, I wanted to open a fitness center that was different. Over the years, this has led to many opportunities as my original business developed and others were started. I now have the chance to speak across the country and have written multiple books on topics in the personal fitness industry. Had I not built my first business, AYC Fitness, into a legacy business, those doors may not have been opened. The importance of business legacy is unparalleled when it comes to determining whether your company stands apart from its competitors and whether it will be successful long after you leave it.

The life cycle of a business

Like almost everything, businesses don’t become established overnight or in the course of one day. Rather, there is a somewhat regular life cycle that a developing business goes through. As the owner begins with an idea or a dream, this life cycle also begins. It progresses through five stages until the business reaches maturity and is executing its purpose. A brief look at this life cycle will help you better understand how business legacy is built upon continuously from very early on.

Stage 1: Dream phase

Stage 2: Start-up

Stage 3: Growth

Stage 4: Expansion

Stage 5: Maturity

Why is legacy important?

Aside from helping a business progress through the business life cycle more successfully, legacy is important in many other aspects of running a business. One of the key impacts is that legacy helps set your business apart from others in the industry. Fitness businesses are forced to compete in an ultra-competitive marketplace. Any leg up in this competition massively helps your business not only stay afloat but thrive.

Business legacy impacts individual careers

It is clear to see the tremendous positive impact that a company’s legacy has on its overall success. Perhaps the obvious way in which a legacy business bolsters the career of its owner is through reputation. Throughout the business’ life cycle, people in the industry and out of it will see how it develops. This network expands as the business does, with more and more people taking note of how the business is being developed and run. As the business develops successfully, people in the industry associate its success with the company’s owner and almost always attribute it back to him or her. As you might imagine, this gives the business owner a strong reputation for being able to successfully run a company and opens the door to many opportunities down the road.

Some of these doors may include opportunities like speaking, authoring, and business consulting. After opening AYC Fitness and developing it into a successful fitness center, I was able to branch out professionally into all of these areas. However, had it not been for the success of my first business, these opportunities would not have been possible or accessible. Successfully raising a business through its life cycle reflects a similar growth in the individual. As the business grows from a start-up to maturity, the owner grows from a worker into an expert and then as an influencer in the field. As others in the industry take note, they also begin to listen to what you have to say. After having years of experience and successfully growing a business, you can be considered an expert on the topic. Thus, people will not only listen to you, but model their own businesses after what you have to say.

Practical steps toward building your business into a legacy business

Here are three actionable suggestions that will prove helpful to steer your business on a path to legacy. These tips are not all-inclusive, and every company has a set of unique needs. These tips are not cookie-cutter steps that will automatically turn your business into one with legacy, but rather they should serve as a framework of best practices that will help you get there over time. They will help your company run more smoothly and help gain the respect of those in the industry and of the all-important customer.

· Know your non-negotiables

· Hire smart; hire right

· Create a strong company culture

· Provide opportunities for growth and improvement for your team

Legacy is earned not given

Whether you’re just dreaming up your business concept or have been in the game for a few years, it’s never too early to start thinking about and planning for your company’s legacy. Building a business that matters and building a business with legacy is no easy task. For me, building a personal fitness business into a platform from which to speak, write, and guide others has been a rewarding experience. With legacy, your business is a step above the rest and can impact your industry in incredible ways. By following the steps outlined above and by carefully considering how your decisions today will influence the future legacy of your business, you are one step closer to becoming the company and the executive that people look to for guidance and knowledge in your field.