The story of your company’s evolution may seem uninspiring to you, but it can play an important role in building trust and respect, especially among younger generations of employees and customers — Gen Zs deeply care about an organization’s background and impact.
Every company has been shaped by moments of inspiration, perseverance, courage or luck. Your company history should feature the most compelling highlights of your entrepreneurial journey, along with significant achievements, such as patents and major wins.
You should include your history in your business plan and employee handbook and on your website’s “about us” page. Some companies write a book about their corporate story that is presented to employees and others on special occasions. The message behind your corporate milestones can become your brand’s cornerstone.
Whatever your company history, honesty is key. Check out the biggest business lies ever told.
What should your company history include?
Although the details of your company history are unique to your business, there are four key elements that every company history should include:
- Why your company was started, including your values and company mission.
- A brief profile of the founders.
- Major turning points in your company’s life.
- Amusing and inspirational events that have occurred along the way.
The details of your company history will help others understand why you started and what challenges you’ve overcome and serve as a roadmap for future accomplishments and success.
How to write a company history
Follow these six steps to write a compelling company history that accurately and informatively describes your business.
1. Read other company histories.
Get inspired by seeing how other companies have recounted their background. For example, Microsoft tells its multifaceted success story with a few articles that recount some of the company’s most noteworthy achievements over the last decade. Seeing how other companies share their history will give you an idea of what you do and don’t want yours to look and sound like.
2. Dig for industry and company highlights.
Did you make a mark on your industry with a breakthrough product or a new twist on an old concept? Explain your company’s achievements in the context of your industry’s history. These events and milestones help form a picture of how your organization got to where it is today. It gives customers, employees and other key stakeholders a sense of where you’ve been and where you might be headed. It can help build your brand’s image and market your organization to the right people.
3. Elicit memories.
Bring history to life by including anecdotes from employees and customers who were there when your company was just starting out. Ask these folks if you can interview them about their experiences. Effective storytelling is a great way to draw your audience to your organization and make them feel connected.
4. Create a timeline.
After gathering your historical facts, record each event on a timeline. This timeline should contain all the important details of your company’s history, organized chronologically.
5. Consult corporate history professionals.
If you prefer, you can hire a professional to research and write your history. However, since your company history is a critical part of your organization’s image, you will likely still want to be involved in its creation in some capacity.
6. Picture it.
Use photos to illustrate your company’s history. Include old snapshots of the founders and snap photos of today’s employees while they work. While at it, take photos of historical documents and other corporate artifacts — they also help tell your story.
Tips for Writing a Successful Company History
Your company history can serve as a marketing tool. There are a few things to keep in mind when writing a company history.
- Focus on your significant achievements: Unless you plan to publish a book about your company, don’t let your story get bogged down with too much detail. You can still add interesting anecdotes from employees and customers to bring it to life while focusing on major milestones.
- Be honest about how your company got to where it is: Telling the truth about your company’s history can foster trust among your employees, customers and key stakeholders. When mentioning failed product launches or other less-than-flattering events, you can tie them to essential lessons you or the founders learned that contributed to later success.
- Highlight your company culture: Your company history should give readers a sense of your company culture. Ask employees if they have a special fondness for certain company traditions. Look back at how you have celebrated your company’s birthdays and other special occasions.
- Keep organized records of your company history: Whether you or someone else is writing your company history, keep organized records of your history. Document where you found each piece of information you expect to include in your history since you’ll need to refer back to these sources while writing.
Your company’s story doesn’t end when you have completed your corporate history project. Maintain a file of significant events so that as your company grows, you can update its story.
Don’t give too much detail when writing company history. Focus on major achievements and interesting anecdotes from employees or customers and try to incorporate a sense of company culture.
Examples of company histories
If you are struggling to write your company history, there are several well-known organizations you can look to for company history examples. Each company overview is as unique as the business it describes.
Starbucks‘ company history is both informative and easy to read. It includes a brief profile of the founders, the company background and mission statement and the foremost company turning points. It does all this while using descriptive and imaginative language. The casual and friendly tone of the company history matches the atmosphere it strives to bring to coffee lovers each day.
“Our story begins in 1971 along the cobblestone streets of Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market,” the company wrote on its website. “It was here where Starbucks opened its first store, offering fresh-roasted coffee beans, tea and spices from around the world for our customers to take home.”
Starbucks goes on to detail where its name came from, where it first expanded to and how its chairman and chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, was drawn to the company. Starbucks also includes its mission statement.
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Scrolling down the page, you are presented with vivid coffee imagery, along with details about coffee as a craft, Starbucks partners, its company culture and sustainability measures.
Adidas takes a unique approach to its company history. The forward-thinking sports brand is all about power, speed and achievement. This mission is conveyed in its company profile. Instead of relying solely on the written word, the company intersperses its history with vivid imagery highlighting its purpose, mission and attitude. By highlighting this information with images that evoke emotion, readers get an immediate feel for the sport-centric company.
As your company grows, you should tailor your company history to match current marketing conventions. For example, American Airlines has been around for almost 100 years. It tailored its company history to a brief, one-paragraph overview, with an expandable interactive timeline that covers seminal events in the company’s history.
Source: American Airlines
Additional reporting by Judy Artunian.