A company history is a narrative that details how, when, and why your company grew, often with a focus on key milestones or events. It can be shared internally and externally in digital form or in print. It often appears on a company website and should be written in a distinctive voice that represents the company’s brand, spirit, goals, and purpose.

Why Write a Company History?

Creating a company history and timeline not only celebrates your organization but can provide new insights into it. It can also: 

  • Recognize company founders and other key players in your organization.
  • Create a compelling and interesting story that will get clients, customers, investors, and employees excited about your business and where it’s heading.
  • Acknowledge achievements, records set, and major milestones.
  • Build company culture.
  • Help with branding by creating a unique voice and story for your company.
  • Put your company into perspective by detailing what you have overcome and how much your business has developed.

What Should I Include in a Company History?

Your company history is a great way for readers to get to know your culture, people, creativity, industry contributions, and more. In addition to key events in your company’s timeline, consider including:

  • The reason your company was founded and its values, goals, and passions.
  • Biographies of founders, employees, and other key people at your organization.
  • Images of your company’s past and present locations, maps, pictures of important people, historical documents, and any other visuals.
  • Any major achievements or milestones.
  • Important themes that have emerged in your work.

To gain further inspiration, read the company histories of your favorite brands. For example, Microsoft has an interactive timeline while Cadbury’s narrative has a strong visual element. Kraft Heinz has a company podcast and Google has a short, personal company story.

Tip: Use Narrative Structure to Write an Irresistible Story

The secret to writing a great company history is to use the same structure writers use when creating compelling books. Whether you hire a professional writer or create your own story, ask these questions to build a suspenseful narrative that keeps people reading.

  • What was the desire behind the company? Good stories begin with a hero who wants something and is prevented from getting it. Readers turn the pages eagerly to find out what will happen next. Start your history by outlining who started the company and what they wanted to achieve. Did they want to change the world? Provide for their family? Create a better product?  
  • What were the obstacles? Once your story has established what your company and its founders wanted, list the obstacles that stood in the way. Was the company small and surrounded by larger competitors? Did the organization start on a shoestring budget, without enough revenue? Get vulnerable. Readers love stories where people and companies overcome big odds.
  • What were the stakes? Good narratives have high stakes, meaning there is a lot that can go wrong if the hero doesn’t get their way. Identify what your company had to lose, and what those losses might have meant. Would hundreds of employees have been out of work during an economic downturn? Was the owner’s home put up for collateral? The potential for big losses makes the eventual success more exciting.
  • When did things look bleak? Look for drama in the story of your company. In most books, there is a moment when all looks lost, and a subsequent dramatic U-turn is thrilling for readers. When did your company make a big change? Were there key turning points?

As you consider your company history, think in terms of a dramatic plot. Chart out the low and high points for the company and what your organization had to overcome. A structure that follows the desire-obstacle-success journey will be very engaging.

How Can My Company Write a Great History?

The writing process may require you to work with multiple people at your organization. When you start, you might want to:

  • Create a plan: Set a goal and deadline for your history and decide who is interested in working on the project, then set a budget. You can use Connecteam’s team surveys to ask for volunteers, gauge interest in the project, and even share ideas.
  • Interview people from your company’s past and present: Interviews with leaders, employees, and even clients give you great source material and quotes. Use a recording app on your phone so you capture every word, or record a video you can share as part of your company history online. 
  • Gather historical documents: Visit local libraries and archives and look up newspapers and other valuable sources. Librarians and archivists may be able to help you find past adverts from your company, pictures of the area, and more. Gather a variety of materials. A visit to local archives and libraries can be especially important if your business has been around for a long time and the original founders and owners can no longer be interviewed.
  • Assign a writer: Determine who will create a narrative from the materials you’ve found. You may want to hire a professional writer or ask someone in your company to tell the story. You can even use Connecteam secure chat to facilitate collaborative writing.
  • Let a format emerge: What themes keep recurring? What parts of the history most excite you and seem the most dramatic? Look at these pieces and ask what form your story might take. Could you create an interactive timeline on your company website or even a podcast series? Would you prefer a physical exhibit, complete with archival materials, at your company headquarters? Or is your story best suited to a short non-fiction piece, pamphlet, or book you can print and distribute or post online?   
  • Look beyond company events: Do some research into the history of your company’s community and the world around it to add drama and context to your story. For example, your business may have been founded during a big fire or storm in your city, and images and stories from that time can add to your account.
  • Make it personal: Reading about mergers and revenues growing over time is not exciting. Where you can, add a personal element by writing about the community, culture, and people who created your organization. If there are some characters or big personalities in the history, add them in. Talk to your readers as though you were speaking to them directly, sharing what really matters about your company.
  • Edit: Hire a professional editor or have someone at your company read and re-read your history. Does it build interest and drama? Could some parts of the story be moved around? Does the story read well, with no spelling or grammar mistakes? Are all the facts presented accurate and true?  
  • Have a plan for updating the story: Your company history is still unfolding. At least once a year, review the history and add in new information, people, and details.
  • Publish your history: Place your history on your website, in your onboarding packet, in a pamphlet, or in another format. If you want to share your story widely, post about it on social media or create a press release to let the world know where to find your business narrative.

Conclusion

Your company history is not just a series of things that have happened, but a way of structuring your story to inspire and celebrate. Writing your company narrative brings you branding and company culture benefits, both during the creation process and when you reveal the final story.