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Perspective

Sustainability & Patience: Enduring Influence Is a Leader’s Highest Tribute

Early in my childhood, I gained an appreciation for things which had endured for hundreds and even thousands of years. The ancient structures in Italy made quite an impression on me when first visiting my family’s homeland at age eight. These, along with works of art and writings that have survived and continued to influence humanity, have left me to ponder the motives and emotions of the creators.

In Europe and most other parts of the civilized world, structures that are 200 or 300 years old are not considered old. In the United States, often buildings are demolished before reaching 100 years. Today, many structures are “terminally designed,” especially residences. Rarely do we build anything anymore with an underlying intent and passion for the structure to last for hundreds of years.

Short-Sighted Thinking

This short-term (and often disposable) mentality has permeated businesses as well. The focus to instant gratification, coupled with insatiable greed and power, have added “high octane” fuel to turn many companies into transactional engines that consider and use human resources as supply chain commodities to fulfill near-term objectives.

I fear there are fewer and fewer boardroom conversations which include establishing goals that extend 10, 20, 50 years out, let alone 100 or 200. The will, conviction, and patience to build a long-sustaining enterprise are endangered. It appears that success is, at best, being measured in years, not decades, and executive compensation is pegged to short-term objectives. It is not unusual for elite graduate entrepreneurship classes to place a greater emphasis on raising rounds of capital and developing exit strategies as part of the startup business plan, rather than establishing a strategy for driving endurance and sustainability. I find it ironic to develop an exit strategy as part of a new business plan.

Building a Legacy

My dad greatly appreciated the arts, especially classical music, operas, and sculptures. He believed these art forms were intended to ignite the senses and recreate and share the emotions of the artists with future generations.

I too firmly believe these individuals had a passionate desire to have their works live on well beyond this life and reach future generations in a very special and provocative way. These works were intended to be intimate reflections of their deeply held feeling and preservers of legacies. The gratification was served in small incremental steps of the creative process and often extended for years and decades. The joy was building; the reward was legacy. Often, recognition of their works was acknowledged post-mortem. A primary and well-understood requirement was enduring patience, something that seems rare these days. I was taught that patience, coupled with self-discipline, are essential to the achievement of lofty and sustaining goals.

Through my dad’s wisdom, I learned and came to accept and appreciate that the highest tribute to our accomplishments is their ability to have an enduring influence. In fact, rather than the CEO compensation packages that many publicly traded companies create, I’d suggest that the greatest part of the CEO’s compensation should be based upon the company’s performance for the four years following their departure. I believe that the true testament to any leader is what perseveres and continues to have a positive influence after his or her departure.

What We Leave Behind

When I started IPM, I gave no thought to an exit strategy. My entire focus was to establish a company that would far outlast my lifespan, a company that would celebrate its 100th anniversary. I was motivated to be an exception to the rule. My legacy would be wrapped around this venture and the positive impact IPM could have on its family members, our clients, and society as a whole. There was never a doubt that it would take time, patience, discipline, hard work, and an obsession to create and sustain a culture that would continue to fuel the journey. I also have always known that any success would be contingent on surrounding myself with amazingly talented people who shared my values. For the past three and half decades, I have been blessed to be surrounded by such people, my IPM family members.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, organizational leader, or individual contributor, determine the legacy you wish to leave upon your exit from this world. Patiently craft it, enjoying every “brush stroke.”

July 8, 2024

Author

  • C. Richard Panico
    President and CEO
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    C. Richard Panico founded Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. in 1988 and has served as president and CEO ever since. An active advocate of values-based culture and meticulous quality, Rich has been recognized by DePaul University’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics and the University of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, among others.

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Author

  • C. Richard Panico
    President and CEO
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    C. Richard Panico founded Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. in 1988 and has served as president and CEO ever since. An active advocate of values-based culture and meticulous quality, Rich has been recognized by DePaul University’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics and the University of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, among others.

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