In my 45-year career in real estate I have had a lot of titles: President, CEO, Managing Director, Board Member, and Chairman of the Board, to name a few.
In light of all of the titles that have defined me professionally, my clear favorite in life is one that has nothing to do with a career. It’s father. I love the job of being a dad. Always have. I’m crazy about my kids.
As I think about the Allen Morris Company’s 60th anniversary this year, I am reminded that my father, L Allen Morris, who founded the company, had a vision for creating a Legacy Family that included both the company and the family. For him, it wasn’t only about making money. It was about upholding values at home and at work, and passing them along to subsequent generations.
My father made it clear to me from the beginning when I took over the Allen Morris Company 38 years ago at 28 years of age that my responsibility was a sacred trust encompassing three main interests:
-Protecting the reputations of the company and of the family.
-Taking care of my two sisters’ business interests so that they were provided for.
-Stewardship over the business to provide for future generations.
With that vision and mandate, it’s hard to think short term. My father always had the long view. That one small office development of his in 1956 was just the starting point. From that time until now we have completed 82 projects, and we are breaking ground on projects #83, #84, and #85 this year.
A big part of the vision for a Legacy Family is about intentionally including the entire family in charitable giving decisions and in service projects. It is also intentionally making investments of time and effort to prioritize relationships with our extended family. We place a high value on cousins, aunts and uncles, knowing, loving and supporting one another even when they are living in other cities and countries.
Here’s how my father made it happen: In 1970, my parents bought a little, unpretentious cottage hidden in the woods in North Carolina as a place for our family to get away to the beauty of the mountains in nature and to the simpler pace of life in the summertime. My father called it Out-a-Site, a phrase popular in the 1960’s.
It was a place for the family to get together, reconnect and give one another our full attention, to explore and learn, to rest and read, to play games, and to sometimes take on a project together. Eventually, Thanksgiving became the one holiday each year that everyone was expected to attend.
As our family grew, one cottage turned into two, then three, then more to accommodate nine grandchildren, and eventually spouses and great grandchildren.
Our first Thanksgiving family photo at Out-a-Site was just nine of us in 1979 (My father, L. Allen Morris, my mother, Ida Morris, My sisters Ida and Kay, and Ida’s husband Jim Bell and their children, and me.
This past year, we had 36 extended family members in attendance!
What this has demonstrated for my children is the great emphasis placed on family through the years. They have experienced first hand the value of remaining connected and of respecting and caring for every member of the extended family.
If only my father were here today to see how his vision for Legacy Family has grown! He would be so proud also to learn that three of my children are now hard at work at the company, securing their place in the company lineage and becoming stewards for the generation already emerging with their sister, Olivia, raising her two children with husband Jim Mueller in Dallas.
I stand back and marvel with gratitude at the talent, creativity and passion of the next generation, and how hard work, values, love and vision, over time, can create a beautiful legacy.
Happy Father’s Day!
Click on video and see Allen Morris sharing his thoughts on passing a company down through generations of fathers, sons and daughters.
PS. If you would like a copy of the book about my father’s remarkable life story, entitled “A Legacy Lived”, we’d be happy to send you one. Just send your name & address to firstname.lastname@example.org