From Collector: Past, Present, Future
How ACA members preserve and celebrate their corporate history.
7/23/2019 8:00 AM
Most giant corporations have museums of some type where they display pieces of their history: AT&T Inc. has a personal notebook from Alexander Graham Bell, Coca-Cola Co. has a locked vault containing the Coke formula and Hormel has a Spam Museum in Minnesota that’s drawn more than 224,000 visitors since it opened in 2016. Yes. The canned meat product, Spam.
Many accounts receivable management companies have been cornerstones of their communities for decades. They may not have a top-secret soda formula in their corporate archives, but they probably do have many valued stories and historical items that inform their current culture as well as their goals for the future.
Your history is the backbone of your company. It can shape your brand, inspire your corporate vision, unite employees and attract clients, Collector magazine Managing Editor Anne Rosso May reports in the July issue.
As Carl Sagan once said: “You have to know the past to understand the present.”
To learn how to best preserve and recognize a company’s history, we asked a few longtime ACA members how they approach it.
Take Time to Celebrate
The first step in honoring your company’s history is knowing when to step back from your day-to-day tasks to recognize your milestones.
BCA Financial Services Inc. is a third-generation, family-owned accounts receivable management business celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
“It’s a significant milestone that few companies achieve,” said CEO Pam Kirchner, “especially in recent years when you saw a lot of smaller companies closing or merging. That’s why it’s really important that we celebrate it.”
BCA is in the midst of a yearlong celebration which includes a commemorative video, a special anniversary logo, a staff party—complete with a nonalcoholic Champagne toast, during which executives thanked employees for their trust and hard work—and more.
Similarly, when I.C. System celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, executives planned monthly activities to keep the achievement top-of-mind for both employees and clients: publishing historical photos in the company newsletter, hosting employee appreciation events, facilitating charity fundraisers and holding a monthly staff drawing for $80. In October, the month the company was founded, executives decorated the office with balloons and held a big staff luncheon, giving away prizes and gifts to employees.
Inviting the community to celebrate with you is always a good idea. To commemorate its 40th anniversary last year, Meade & Associates Inc. held a big open house for clients and members of the local business community.
“We shut down the office early that day and invited people to stop in and see who we are and meet our staff,” said President Brian Meade, who estimated that more than 120 people showed up.
Afterward, one attendee—the president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce— contacted a local newspaper, which ran an article about the company’s anniversary, promoting not only the company’s success but its important role in a thriving economy.
How the Past Informs the Present
Your company’s history can unite employees and help them feel ownership over its success, Rosso May reports. Your staff should know your company’s full origin story: how the company got started, the challenges it’s faced over the years, and the ways you’ve failed and succeeded.
Kirchner said she keeps BCA’s history alive with staff every day, starting with each new hire.
“The history of the company is discussed during orientation, and on the last day of their training [Chief Operating Officer] Kathy [Kinggard], [Chief Financial Officer] Cindy [Darley] and I go in and tell stories about our history at the company—funny stories about rotary phones and work cards and the way things used to be. Our new team members seem to enjoy it, and it shows that we’re human and the company is always evolving.”
Many job seekers are looking for stability, and your company’s long history can be a strong draw.
“I tell them we’ve been in business for 41 years and we plan to be in business for another 41 years—at least,” said Rod Meade, vice president of Meade & Associates. “That says something not only to employees but also to clients. We’re not just a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ company. We have a long reputation in this industry, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Kirchner said she also tells stories about her company’s founding fathers in staff meetings, aligning their experiences and beliefs with aspects of the company’s current mission, vision and values.
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Pictured above: BCA Financial Services' second owner, Bill Hearne Jr. and his wife Peggy at ACA's 1979 Annual Convention. Photo courtesy of BCA Financial Services.
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