How Your Company’s History Can Build Your Business Today

In a society that venerates youth, being around long enough to have a history is often dismissed as unimportant, or even as carrying the connotation of being outdated. This is too bad in many respects, including for businesses whose long tenure should be something not only to celebrate, but to also use in shaping powerful messages for today’s audiences.

Many top executives of long-standing companies either take the organization’s tenure for granted or mask it for fear of seeming out-of-step in the current marketplace. They’re squandering a tremendous asset. Statements about perseverance and success inspire people of all generations and have as much impact now as ever – perhaps more so, given the tumult of the recent recession. If your organization has been in operation for a significant length of time – two decades or more – consider the following:

1. Tell your story with meaning. Simply stating you’ve been in business since a certain date indicates you are well-established. But it doesn’t explain why your organization has succeeded when so many others have not or why your audiences should care. By taking the time to carefully examine the history of your company, you will be able to find the characteristics that define it. How you tell that history can provide to others a wonderful understanding of the values your company holds dear.

2. Your company’s history is more than a timeline. Your history has been series of challenges overcome and opportunities achieved. When events occurred is often less important than why they took place. Understanding the obstacles the company surmounted, how it did so, and the thinking of leadership makes a dynamic statement about the company’s values.

3. History is more about the future than the past. Students study the American Revolution and the founding of our government as the context for understanding our country’s ideals as future adults. Those ideals move us all forward and are constantly reinterpreted for a new age. Similarly, your company was established on certain principles and for certain purposes that can be freshly interpreted for today. A thoughtful and clearly understood history provides a road map for your organization’s success into the future.

4. Your history can engage and inspire others. Your company’s audiences are many: customers, employees, the public as a whole, perhaps stockholders, and others, as well. Well-shaped messages illustrated by your history give current and prospective customers more reason to do business with you rather than with your competitors. They spark pride in the workforce and better enlist their enthusiasm for carrying out the company’s founding ideals. These messages attract the notice of the public and enhance the company’s value for stockholders.

5. History, told well, is intriguing. Forget about the dry history textbooks you may have toiled through in school. History is a story with purpose; it’s all about how it’s told.

6. History can sell. Incorporating messages drawn from your company’s history into your advertising and other communications can yield some of your most compelling marketing. Given a choice, customers prefer purchasing from organizations that offer faces and stories rather than amorphous institutions. Your history provides this appealing identity.

What’s your company’s history? We’d love to hear it, and so would your customers, employees, and other audiences.