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  • Writer's pictureErika Clegg

Use the past, don’t stay there

The opening line of The Go Between, a romantic novel by LP Hartley popular in the 1950’s, is: “The past is another country, they do things differently there”. Valuable advice when it comes to your company’s choices and behaviour.

Businesses with heritage often find themselves torn between the past and the future. Naturally, people are reluctant to jettison anything that has worked for them. In addition, especially in family companies, there are often people who have been responsible for setting the company’s direction in the past still in evidence, probably on the board and quite possibly still with their corner office.

The trick for the new generation is to build with the past, not on it.

Your heritage is one of your assets, just like your premises, IP, processes, plant, people, contracts and brand. Just as with any asset, it needs regular dispassionate review to analyse its current value.

Value is ultimately about what helps you achieve your vision. An ambitious vision, developed amongst key stakeholders and with the buy-in of your wider team, will ensure you can justify a heritage edit objectively, rather than it getting emotional. (As, so often, multi-generational discussions can...)

This is not about throwing out what’s good, but about evaluating and maximising it - and gently laying to one side things that are outmoded and holding you back.


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