The discussion was a fascinating display of the politics between the different organizations in the genealogy community. There are lots of good people serving in these many organizations and it is interesting to watch their various missions and values come into play with each other. We are so lucky to have so many people who are passionate about family history working to help genealogists be better at their craft. I came away with a new appreciation for the talent we have in genealogy--and a new respect for the diplomatic talent of many of the players.
The ultimate outcome of this discussion was an initiative to create a coordinating committee between the various organizations that could come up with a small number of basic principles of good genealogy research that we could all get behind. With a core set of principles, we could be a united voice to new genealogists and help raise the quality of genealogy research across the board.
Most interesting to me was a part of the discussion in the middle. Someone (I'm sorry I don't remember who) suggested that we should cast this net wide to include those companies that serve genealogists as well as the research entities. Specifically she mentioned a developer at RootsMagic that she knew and suggested that these principles could be incorporated into that software and other databases and tools that genealogists use. She knew that the developers would have more buy in if they were included in the discussion rather than just informed about it. An interesting conversation ensued about who was "qualified" to put these principles in place and whether or not genealogy business owners were up to the task. Having a Masters in Library and Information Science, and yet being on the "Companies that Serve Genealogists" side rather than the research side, I found this discussion very intriguing.
As the Colloqium concluded, Christy Fillerup volunteered to be the point person for developing this coordinating committee. (Go Christy! I know from personal experience with her that she will be fabulous.) As things were wrapping up, I was approached by several people, including Christy, about creating and coordinating a voice for the genealogy business community that could be a part of this board. While I watched groups from other organizations talk about how they are going to coordinate within their entity and then send a representative to participate, I felt suddenly quite lonely.
Similarly, as I've recently written the "Making Money in Genealogy" course for Salt Lake Community College (You really should sign up--it did turn out quite fantastic in my humble point of view :) I found there were precious few resources about running a genealogy business. There is a plethora of resources about how to do good genealogy research, but very very little about how to make a living doing it. And if you can't make a good living at it, you can't be as effective at doing genealogy.
I have long felt the need for a genealogy business organization--a coordinated effort between businesses where we could share some of the load of developing a genealogy company. The genealogy market is very different, and in a lot of ways business resources from outside the community don't apply. I've seen other communities with such organizations, such as the LDS Booksellers Association, or the American Independent Business Alliance or even the California Avocado Commission and the Battery Council International where such entities coordinate scholarships, conferences, workshops, share marketing ideas, joint buying projects (such as insurance) and create resources for new business owners to learn and network. If there is a National Association of Firefighter's Credit Unions, I think it is time for us. I think in general, most genealogy business owners have started companies because they love genealogy, and then find themselves responsible for other people's jobs without a lot of business know-how. There are trade associations in most every field. I think it is time to start talking about one in genealogy.
For starters we could develop:
- A resource of best business practices
- A united buying power
- A resource for asking business related questions
- Networking activities
- Partnership opportunities
- A united voice in the genealogy community
What I'm talking about here isn't particularly an association for genealogy researchers. While those researchers are welcome, most researchers can usually find the resources they need at the Association for Professional Genealogists. What I'm talking about here is an organization specifically about business for genealogy business executives, that includes people like me--people who serve genealogists--the people who buy space in the vendors' hall at major conferences.
I know that the real value I find at conferences has always come at the lunches and dinners I go to after the conference, where I can talk with my peers and find out what is working best for them. I'd like to solidify that more. So:
- I've started the closed facebook group "Genealogy Business Alliance". Feel free to contact me to join.
- We have created a google form that will collect information about people interested in the group. Fill it out at https://goo.gl/M1WoZ7.
- I'm going to organize an exploratory committee to discuss where this could go and feel out support.
- I'll be passing out flyers at RootsTech to inform people about the effort.