Creating a Legacy to Treasure

However pressing our business concerns may seem, it's always best to think in the long term -- and put family first

I was leading a CEO workshop recently, and as we introduced ourselves, one man crowed, "I'm a first-time dad! My wife just delivered our son at 2 a.m. this morning." He was probably thinking how dedicated he was, but all I could think was, "How sad."

This was the inaugural day for his new family, and instead of staying with them to bask in the wonder of it all, he was at work. He probably assumed, as many people do, that he had plenty of tomorrows to spend time with his new child.

Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that time with our loved ones shouldn't be taken for granted. In 1998, the doctors thought our 8 1/2-year-old son, Mark, had the flu. Eleven days later, he died of brain cancer. Our sudden tragedy has forever changed my perspective on work and family.

Let's face it: We all face tremendous pressures to sell more and cultivate our businesses. So what are busy salespeople who love their families supposed to do? Assuming that retiring immediately or working part-time aren't feasible, here are some ways to modify your selling style so you can continue to provide for your family with less guilt and more peace of mind.

Develop a legacy viewpoint. When I get stuck in a selling situation and am not sure what to do, I project myself five years out and look back and ask what I wish I'd have done. For example, would I prefer I had sold a client Solution A or Solution B?

The same strategy can be used with your family. Project yourself way out into the future and ask yourself: What legacy would you like? To be a good provider? Sure. No one wants a parent who doesn't provide the basics. But I bet you also want your children to have a head full of good memories of spending time with you, whether it's going on Scout camp outs, learning to appreciate jazz, or just goofing around.

The day before he died, I asked Mark, "How did you learn to love so much?" He told me, "That's easy. My whole family really, truly, deeply loves each other. They say you learn what you live. Well, wherever we lived, and we lived all over, we had each other, and we loved each other." What a legacy.

Focus on the ROI of your selling time. Spend your time with clients who give you the best total return based on the number of hours you have to spend with them. For those clients who don't make this cut, you can either refer them to someone else and get a referral commission or hire someone to handle them.

I met a high-level business consultant who has only 10 clients, but each signs up for a minimum of 10 days a year for 10 years at $35,000 per day. That's $3.5 million a year for the next decade working 100 days per year. He achieved this level by selling only to clients worth his time and effort. This strategy increases his closing ratio, branding, income -- and free time. That's a home run.

Take family vacations. No matter what your schedule or financial situation, get away with just your family at least once a year. It creates stories and bonds you can't achieve any other way.

A few years ago, I bought a travel trailer, and now every year I drive my family around the country. We see the sites and visit friends and relatives, but mostly, we just hang out together. Our daughter, a typical teenager, didn't want to go on our summer trip this year. But by the end of the first day on the road she told me, "Mom, I love going on these trips. You haven't once told us, 'Hurry up, I have 42 things to do,' like you always do at home."

In my office, I have pictures of us on our travels, and they motivate me to sell more so I can get back on the road and make more memories.

Create rituals. It could be a silly song or Family Dinner Night. For my family, when we call or part from each other, we always end with "I love you." It comforts us to know that whatever happens to us, the last phrase we heard was the most important one.

Share your hobbies with your kids -- and let them share theirs with you. On Saturday mornings, my husband and our daughter go for on rides on his big motorcycle. Their first stop is for breakfast, and then they head out down some picturesque country roads. When they return, they're refreshed and have deepened a bond that sustains them through the coming week's challenges.

I love crazy jokes. Yesterday, our young son drew a Star Wars cartoon. It showed Luke Skywalker telling Darth Vader, "You killed my mother." Darth Vader, wearing a dress, replies, "No, Luke, I AM your mother." It cracked me up, and I proudly hung it on our refrigerator.

Help your children value you for more than your paycheck. In a way, our children are like our customers -- we're responsible for how they perceive us. If we act like an ATM on two legs, how can we blame them for treating us that way? This is why sharing your time, ideas, values, and stories with your children matters.

Author Rebecca Rupp says "We are what we remember." Whether you live for another 50 years or die tomorrow, how do you want to be remembered? I want my tombstone to say, "She loved a LOT." That guides the decisions I make in all aspects of my life.

When you get clear on what you want your legacy to be, adjust your work and family style to reflect it. Then go sell with renewed purpose and passion -- for your business and your family. Happy selling!

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