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How to Write Your Company History (With Examples)

Whether you’re in the early stages of a startup or have been in business for decades, you have a unique advantage: your company history. At first, the story of how your business evolved may seem trivial, but when it’s well told, it can give your marketing plans and growth strategies a lift. It can be useful for establishing your brand, connecting with customers in new ways and boosting your workforce’s pride in your company’s accomplishments.

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What is a company history?

A company history is a record of pivotal moments in your business from its origins to the present day. It organizes milestones, accomplishments and the work of influential figures into a cohesive narrative. The way you frame that narrative can bring your company’s strengths, leadership, culture and values to the forefront.

Where do you use a company history?

A corporate history can be tailored to a variety of audiences and formats. It’s a powerful tool to build credibility and trust with employees, customers, potential investors and other stakeholders.

Websites

Most companies have an overview page that provides a summary of their business, but it’s useful to provide a detailed corporate history for those who want more comprehensive information. You can combine elements such as text, photographs, timelines and audiovisual content to convey a compelling story.

Business plans

Use a corporate history to provide important background in business plans and proposals. Potential lenders, investors and partners benefit from knowing how a company has grown and changed over the years.

Employee handbooks

New employees should know the legacy of the company they’re coming to work for. Add the company history to an employee handbook or company policy manual to help staff understand your mission and values.

Media kits

Journalists appreciate it when you make their job easier. Include the company history in a media section of your website or when distributing press releases. This reduces the chance of confusion or misunderstandings.

Annual reports

Annual reports are read by both stakeholders familiar with your company and those who don’t know it well. When you’re reporting on current projects and activities, a concise corporate history can put these events in context.

Commemorative books

Some companies mark special occasions such as an anniversary or retirement with a commemorative book. This in-depth history can be published and distributed to staff, clients and other stakeholders.

Benefits of a well-written company history

While your corporate history revisits significant moments from the past, it also plays an important role in positioning your business, products and services in the present. It can provide several important benefits.

It shapes your company’s core identity

A clearly articulated company history brings your mission statement to life by showing employees how your business works toward its goals. Whether you want to emphasize values such as community, innovation or customer service, your company’s story can give employees a more intuitive grasp of their common objectives and inspire a sense of pride in what’s been accomplished.

It helps you connect with customers

Customers have diverse reasons for doing business with a company. Knowing your story and the human face of your business can build a personal connection and trust. Customers comparing similar businesses will tend to choose the one that’s transparent about who they are and where they come from.

It establishes your brand image and reputation

Corporate history is a persuasive way to build credibility and distinguish your business from others. Use examples from the past to illustrate sound decision-making and management, vision, leadership and community engagement.

Preparing to write your company history

Here’s how to prepare for writing your company’s journey.

Gather information

It’s not necessary to document every minor detail, but do research key moments and milestones.

  • Company founders: Assemble information about who started the company and their background.
  • Original idea and vision: Find details about how the founders got the idea and how others were persuaded to support it.
  • Turning point: Source first-hand accounts of how the company was received and early signs of momentum. Identify key moments that sparked growth or made special memories.
  • Influential figures: Learn about key people who shaped the company and helped it grow.
  • Innovations: Document products that made a splash or helped you stand out.
  • Milestones: Collect accounts of milestones such as the opening of new stores, mergers, acquisitions and changes in ownership. Make sure to include setbacks that were overcome, such as rebuilding a warehouse destroyed by fire.
  • Accolades: Identify notable awards and other forms of recognition.
  • Media coverage: Collect interviews and profiles from print, TV and web sources that illustrate your achievements.
  • Community engagement: Find accounts of how your business has given back to the community.
  • Interesting trivia: Seek out unique tidbits and anecdotes; for example, talk about the time your product was used as a prop in a movie or a famous athlete stopped by your store.

Compile visual elements

Visual elements are just as important as the text. Compile archival material such as photographs or video footage—perhaps you have an image of the founders working out of a garage or early prototypes of your company’s products. Print ads and logos are also interesting to include.

Conduct interviews

Sit down with founders, partners, long-time employees and other stakeholders to get their impressions and memories. Ask them about changes they’ve seen, challenges met and the reasons for key decisions.

Prioritize honesty

This is mentioned above but is worth elaborating on: Assemble candid details about both your successes and your setbacks. Your story can most effectively build trust if you focus on more than what’s flattering. The tale of your success is likely to be at least in part about the lessons you drew from failures or from coping with unexpected challenges.

How to write your company’s story

Once your preparations are in place, you’re ready to start the writing process.

Determine your tone

Calibrate the length, tone and style of your history for the audience.

If you include a company history in a business plan, it should be concise, written in the third person and in a formal tone, and it should be focused on financial and strategic milestones. Whether it’s featured on a website or in a commemorative book, it can be effective as long as the result matches your brand voice.

Organize the information into an evocative timeline

With all the information you need in hand, you can array it chronologically. Once you have events in their historical sequence, you can select and develop the details most important for your purposes.

Identify themes

As you look at the history of your company, try to draw out themes. Are there examples of leadership, perseverance, creativity or innovation? Has the business been handed down through generations? Maybe community engagement and charity work are a big part of the company.

Revisit these themes throughout your story, and consider using them in your branding and marketing strategies.

Design the layout

The visual design and layout of your corporate history can make it a truly compelling asset. Use photographs to break up text and illustrate vivid moments, and consider using interactive online elements as LEGO does.

Keep the project going

A corporate history is never complete until your business winds up. Be sure to document your history as your business grows and hits new milestones. Keep organized records and take regular photos of employees, products and stores—these may be pieces of future history.

Think about consulting with professionals

Writing and design don’t come easily to everyone. If your team doesn’t have the skill set to create this asset in a format that matches your competitors, it can be worth contracting professional writers, historians and designers to elevate the level of craftsmanship.

Real-life company history examples

Before you start writing your corporate story, browse through ones created by other businesses to get ideas. Here are some real-life company history examples to get you started.

Randall Knives

Randall Knives, a knife manufacturer, tells its corporate history from the point of view of the company founder. As he explains how he got the idea for the business and its growth, he weaves together values of longevity, commitment to quality and family. The accompanying timeline offers an easy-to-parse visual presentation of the story.

Melissa and Doug

This toy company presents its company history in a playful and colorful layout to match its brand. Focusing on the company’s namesakes, Melissa and Doug’s company history reveals the thinking behind certain product lines and their vision of creating meaningful, well-made toys for children.

Square Books

Square Books is an independent bookseller. Their corporate history is text-heavy and takes a traditional chronological approach, outlining their growth and the notable authors who have visited the bookstore over the decades. There’s a short overview page for a quick summary, along with a more detailed history.

Google

Google’s corporate history shows that such documents don’t have to be lengthy. This global Internet giant has distilled its story into a concise selection of key points.

Company history FAQs

Here are some common questions about writing company histories.

What should your company history include?

There are plenty of possible details to include, but the four most essential elements—especially if you’re writing a compact company history—are these:

  • The reasons the company was founded, including its mission and values.
  • Brief profiles of the founders.
  • The company’s biggest turning points to date.
  • Noteworthy inspirational, intriguing or just plain funny events during the journey.

Why does history matter to us?

History is all about understanding how the past shaped the present, making it possible to learn from our mistakes and chart better paths forward. This is just as true for companies as it is for society as a whole.

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