Blue Footprints in the Snow

Business Owners: What Kind of Footprints Are You Leaving?

Footprint in soil

Although most businesses try not to leave much of a “carbon” footprint, there are types of “footprints” that you as a business owner should WANT to leave.

Like a parent, you should want to leave a memorable footprint.  Most children imitate their parents, copying mannerisms and ways of responding to situations.  As parents walk through life, they leave footprints that express the qualities they value for their children to follow.

Businesses work much the same way.  If you have taken over a family business or have purchased an already established company, you immediately step into the footprints of the former owners.   Although you eventually want to put your own stamp on the company, it might be smart to keep some of its clients, traditions and protocols at least for a while.  By doing so, you honor the people who invested their lives into the company.  By following their footprints, you recognize that you have been given a “step up” by standing on what they have already accomplished.

From the moment you set up your business, whether it is new or purchased, you start leaving your own footprints.  These will be followed by your employees.  Understanding how crucial footprints are to a business will make the difference as to how successful you are:

  • Footprints—obviously—leave an impression.  When you walk on soft ground or crunch into three inches of snow, your feet leave a clear impression.  The way you run your business should leave a clear impression, too.  It should make a recognizable mark on the world.  Your integrity, grit Blue Footprints in the Snowand aspirations should make others stop and admire what you are accomplishing.  The impression you leave should even inspire them to reach further for their own dreams.
  • Footprints should be followed.  Life is pitted with dangers and potential disasters.  No one knows this better than soldiers who have to pick their way through a minefield.  The leader painstakingly tests the ground for mines.  Those who follow must step in the exact footprints of the person in front.  Your expertise has enabled you to be that kind of leader.  You test the ground for your company.  You lead the way for all your employees.  If you consistently demonstrate your expertise in a way that both challenges and motivates them, they will trust you and will follow in your exact footprints.
  • Footprints are proof that you have been there, done that.  By walking forward and leaving footprints, you are leaving behind a permanent record of your accomplishments.  This allows you to confidently claim experience over the ground where you have walked.  This proof of experience will enable you to be a powerful example for your employees and to effectively teach them the ins and outs of your business.
  • Footprints show where you have made course corrections.  No one is perfect.  We all have had times when we started in one direction, and then realized that we are heading the wrong way.  We stop, backtrack, and then move toward a different heading.  Our footprints act as a diary of where we have been, including the course corrections.   A good business leader is not afraid to admit that he or she has made a mistake.  Backing up and setting off in a new direction is a sign of resilience, not failure.  Failure is stubbornly continuing in the wrong direction or stopping and giving up altogether.  The pattern of your footprints is a testimony to the kind of person and business leader you are.
  • Footprints are distinctive.  Just like fingerprints, footprints can be used by forensic scientists to track down criminals.  The business footprints that you leave are just as unique.  They are permanently tied to you and your business.  They are recognizable and distinguish your company from the rest of the pack.  If you capitalize on making your business’s footprints unique, they can help to brand your company in a positive and memorable way.

Turn around and take an honest look at the kind of footprints that you yourself and your business are leaving.  Do they express the values that you want your employees to internalize?  Have your footprints made a clear impression?  Do they keep your employees focused on a shared purpose?  Do they demonstrate both your experience and your ability to make course corrections?  Are your footprints expressive of what you want your company to stand for?

If so, then you can be assured that your business is making a positive impact on the world.  If not, then maybe it is time to pause and re-evaluate both your company’s priorities and your own.