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Beyond Sentimentality - Why recognizing milestones is good for business

Nov 20, 2017
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Beyond Sentimentality
Why recognizing milestones is good for business

By Emily Abbas, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Bankers Trust

There are occasions that make us smile or tug at our heartstrings, like a child’s first step or a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary, and there are milestones that become part of our history such as the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 1884 which was the first in the country to focus on prohibiting discrimination.

Companies also have key milestones and anniversaries. Perhaps becoming publicly traded or employee owned, investing in an expansion or merging with another company, or as in the case of Bankers Trust, celebrating when it was founded in 1917.

We are now in the final month of a year-long celebration – 100 Years of Trust and I can tell you this, as rewarding and fun as it has been, these types of anniversaries can present a whole host of challenges. For us one was how to pay tribute to the past while simultaneously moving full-speed ahead with strategic plans and campaigns focused on the future.

Here are a few things we learned that I hope are helpful to others.

First and foremost, give yourself a lot of runway. I joined the company in 2014 and immediately noted we were three years away from our centennial and would want to begin having discussions and making plans at least two years in advance.

Also fundamental is starting with your company’s beliefs and guiding philosophies. Discuss the answers to questions such as -

  • What from our past is still evident today and will never change?
  • Who do we want to thank?
  • What values do we hold most dear and how do we lift them up and bring them to life?
  • What do we want our employees, customers and the communities we serve to think, feel or believe about our company – both its past and future?

Next, develop measurable objectives. We had metric for four categories – employee engagement; community attendance at centennial-related events; advertising/marketing impressions; and supporting the bank’s aggressive growth and earnings goals for 2017.

Our values and objectives guided everything we have done this year. For example, we knew it was important to first launch the campaign with our employees. After unveiling the theme and our plans, each team member received $100 to keep and $100 to give to a local nonprofit. This approach accomplished three things: It made team members feel appreciated; it actively engaged them in our centennial efforts; and enabled us to gather “Stories of Giving” about why they chose to support the nonprofit they did. We then shared these stories on the bank’s intranet, website, social media, and in a special centennial publication distributed community-wide.

Another key to success was hosting celebration events in each community we serve. We kicked off the summer with a downtown block party and then each branch partnered with a community nonprofit to host a lunch for customers. Each nonprofit received $1,000 donation from the bank and, in some locations, were supported by employees and customers. For example, our team in Grimes partnered with Habitat for Humanity for an on-site build, the Ames team hosted a blood drive, and several other locations collected food donations.  Customizing each event is part of what makes us a true community bank and likely what makes other businesses in Iowa successful.

In closing, whether your organization is celebrating its 10th, 50th or 100th anniversary – seize it!  The pride and unity it inspires will energize and inspire your team members, customers and the communities you serve for some time…perhaps 100 years!