My company is focused on what's going to happen a year...five years...ten years from now. Why should we spend time and money worrying about what happened long ago?
An investment in your past is an investment in your future. Shakespeare's pithy reminder "What's past is prologue" reigns above the door at our National Archives in Washington, D.C. for good reason. No individual, no institution evolves in a complete vacuum. We all depend upon memory and experience to get through life successfully. Imagine waking up every day having to start from scratch. Learning to walk and talk, not knowing where you've put things, not recognizing the way to the market, bus stop, or office? Not pleasant, and certainly exhausting. Yet, on some level, that's exactly what happens when organizations overlook their past. See the Archive for the article "Putting Your Past to Work."
But if we make a big deal about our past, won't our employees and customers think we're stuck in a time warp? After all, didn't Henry Ford call history "bunk"?
Ford made that comment in 1916. In the end, history's imperatives triumphed over Henry's impudence. Today, there's a marvelous, top-of-the-line museum complex in Dearborn, Michigan specifically designed to celebrate, commemorate and teach visitors about Ford's past....In your case, don't be surprised if your customers and employees actually cheer you on. As we begin the twenty-first century people are looking for things that are solid, real and long-lasting. The fact that your organization has a track record, traditions and pride in its past sets you far apart from the multitudes of Johnny-come-latelies.
We're not a company. We're an association. And a non-profit at that. Does that mean the past is less important for us?
Not at all. Most associations today have to function like a for-profit business if they expect to gain and retain members. Both paid and volunteer staff need to understand the association's roots, traditions, culture and politics for the same reasons that any company's employees should learn about their organization's past. Chances are, too, that your association is the de facto custodian of the history of an entire industry or field. It's a role full of challenges....but if you don't do it, who will?
What are some of the services Milestones offers to organizations like ours?
In brief, we offer anniversary master planning, corporate histories, executive memoirs, historical exhibits (three-dimensional and on-line), custom-designed heritage programs, oral history programs, historical research, writing services, and editorial assistance. Consult Our Services and Gallery of Clients for an overview.
What's an "anniversary master plan"?
Basically, it's a blueprint for making the most of a milestone. We get to know your organization by asking you questions about your past, present and future, and then create a program that links all three into one memorable AND meaningful celebration.
What's a "heritage program"?
It's a multi-pronged approach to preserving and applying the past, tailored to fit the client. A typical program, for example, might include developing a records retention policy to prevent valuable papers from ending up in the trash; setting up a small archive to store memorabilia; creating new employee orientation materials that spotlight the organization's history; and developing a web site or historical exhibit. The point? To capture the past before it gets lost, and then allow it to "earn its keep" by putting it to good use.
We've been thinking about publishing a book about our organization, but feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect.
That's not surprising. A book is not a small undertaking. We've done several for clients, and each has presented a unique challenge. So why do it? Because even in this interactive, multimedia age, nothing can truly take the place of a good book. Whether used as a memento or a management tool--or both--the right words tucked between two covers remain a compelling and versatile medium for conveying your message. If it's a CEO memoir or business philosophy book you're thinking about commissioning, you might want to look at The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way (HarperCollins, 1997).
Do we include some of the mistakes we've made?
Absolutely. Mistakes teach as much or more than successes. There's nothing to be gained from whitewashing the past. History is only as valuable as the truth it offers. The key is to put it ALL--the good, the bad, the ugly--into context. If your organization has been around a long time and is still flourishing, chances are you've done most things right and have plenty to celebrate. Look at it another way: the bumps along the road have only made success that much sweeter. For an example of a book that takes the bad with the good, read the CEO memoir we co-authored with Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way.
We're not sure about committing to a major project right now. Can we start with something small?
Certainly. If you haven't done much with your past up till now, you might want to start by commissioning an assessment of your organization's historical resources, a kind of "report card" of where you stand vis a vis your history. Or, if suspect that you ought to launch an oral history program while you're swimming in retirees, start there and see where it leads. Or let us add a corporate history section to your website. You can also use our speechwriting and editorial services on an hourly basis.
How do we contract with Milestones for services?
Editorial services and most projects are handled on an hourly fee basis. A few projects are handled on a set fee basis, with appropriate contingencies. Book contracts are negotiated directly with Milestones's literary representative: Gail Ross, Esq., Washington, D.C.
How do we contact Milestones?
You can e-mail questions or comments to KathiBrown@aol.com. Our telephone number: 434/923-8720. Our fax: 434/923-8721. Our mailing address: 2608 Jefferson Park Circle, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903.
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