Each time I sit down to write this letter I am reminded that it is a tradition started by my father Powell. That’s the case with many aspects of our business. Over the 12 years we’ve worked together he has taught me the principles of business, shared stories of those values in action over four generations, and given me the opportunity to lead. Slowing down at the end of the year to reflect, express gratitude, and re-center on our values is a great example of his legacy as Founder of our company.
Legacy is a word I use a lot, but don’t recall looking up the meaning until just now. I was surprised to find that its primary definition relates to a bequest of property. I should admit that I’m guilty of tinkering with the definitions of words to make them suit my own purposes. With apologies to Messieurs Merriam and Webster, I think of legacy as a bequest of values. We all leave legacies, whether we intend to or not. According to the 19th Century American philosopher William James, “The great use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it”. Building something that outlasts our own efforts is the stuff traditions, states and religions are made of. That something James refers to is legacy.
This time of year is brimming with it. We fill our calendars with excuses to be together with family and friends. We remember those who taught us our traditions by continuing them – some more absurd than others – like broccoli mold at Thanksgiving, or watching Die Hard on Christmas. My young family is just beginning our own holiday traditions, which are heavily influenced by those Betsy and I were brought up with in our respective homes. It’s a joy to experience the season through the eyes of our little girls, but it’s also challenged us with a change of roles. We are responsible for the traditions now. Where will we celebrate? Will there be broccoli mold?
An essential element of legacy is that it is accepted, and carried on, and ultimately becomes your own. As Powell has trusted me with more responsibility at SRS, I’ve taken on the role of shepherding the values of the company, too. Earlier this year I wrote about the platform we are building. Our company isn’t simply a way to make a living, but a vessel for carrying on values that are intrinsically good. The legacy I’ve inherited are the values passed down through four generations of Joneses in business together, whose stories we routinely tell.
We still debate the details of the origin of the Powell Candy Company 100 years ago, the result of a bad investment in sugar. Through it my great grandfather Powell taught us to honor our commitments first, and to have faith that there is always a solution. We remember my grandfather Pa Joe’s “word was his bond.” At the WJ Powell Company he taught my father to trade truckloads of produce with farmers across the country without contracts. They trusted the Joneses to pay them. My mother Caren remembers Pa Joe’s first thought was to count his blessings, and give thanks. With gratitude as a state of mind, he showered those around him with generosity. In the 12 years I’ve worked with him at SRS, Powell has demonstrated a faithful duty to God, Family, and Community, and a passion for being a “maverick” in business. He inspired my instinct to “do things differently.” My sister Mallory and I were just reminiscing about our first business, a lemonade stand. Mom and Dad encouraged us to work together, starting with a trip to the local bank to ask our neighbor, the bank President, for permission to set up shop in his yard – the prime corner in the neighborhood. Our legacy was inescapable.
As I think back over these stories, I’m grateful for the legacy I’ve inherited, and humbled by the opportunity to shape it through the platform of our business, then leave it to the next generation. You are receiving this letter because you are a part of it, too. Thank you for the ways you have supported our legacy this year. I hope your holiday season is full of traditions that remind you of yours.
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