People tend to prefer doing business with companies they know. What better way to help them know your company than to share with them its history. A carefully crafted history helps to attract customers and inspires a sense of dedication in your managers and employees. Let’s take a look at the benefits of writing your company history and consider a few steps to help get you started.
Why Write a Company History?
Every company evolves and is in a constant state of change. Unless its history is captured, the rich heritage that makes a company what it is will evaporate into the past and be lost.
The best reason to write your company history is to make a definitive record of what has happened in the past so you can draw on that strength as you move into the future. By chronicling what has happened, you allow yourself and others to better understand how your company became what it is today.
As you begin to gather the stories, you’ll discover or rediscover company values, the reasons you’re in business, and the events and people that contributed to your culture and purpose.
A written record can then be duplicated and shared by:
- Creating a version to be shared with customers on your website in the “About” tab.
- Publishing an employee version for new team members to give them a sense of legacy they can buy into.
- Hard copy versions can be published and kept in your lobby to share your history with waiting customers or included as promotional material with substantial proposals.
- A long version of your history in the form of a living document can be created and added to year to year. This serves as a foundation for future updates.
Since many HVAC businesses are family-owned companies, a more family-friendly version of the history can be written to share with family members. This version many include more personal photos, quotes, letters or documents from family members.
The Benefits of Writing a Company History
When you undertake to write your company history, you will find yourself in close connection with the stories, people, and events that contributed to building the company.
When Barbara Bush wrote her history of their time in the White House, she acknowledged that her version of what happened was most certainly different from what we read in the media of the day. Her version was far more positive and realistic because she lived it. As you write your history, like Barbara Bush, you can choose to record the events and memories as you remember them with a full understanding of what happened because you were there.
You have the freedom to choose what to leave in and what to take out. It’s up to you to decide what people and events are important as you write the words and include the photos that will create your company’s legacy.
One word of caution: Be honest and factual about what you record. Avoid making things better than they really were and don’t be afraid to describe difficult events that provided lessons which shaped the very philosophy of your company today.
Steps to Get Started
The best way to begin writing your company history is to create a timeline. Enter the facts and events as best as you can remember them. You may want to enter this information into a Microsoft® Word or Excel document where you can insert additional data as you collect it.
To tie down dates and exact events, research corporate agreements, minutes, and other records. These often have additional significant information.
Occasionally, as you search, you will discover amazing facts that were everyday events back then. Be certain to capture these. Here are a few examples of may be of interest:
- The board approved the purchase of a new 1978 service van for $6825.00
- The average installer was paid $385.00 per week in 1985
- The company’s first female service technician was hired May 3, 2002.
- Service call special of only $19.95 in the spring of 1982.
Here are a few suggestions for where to find more information:
Pull old files and records like job invoices, material costs, or payroll checks. You may uncover some nostalgic tidbits that will make for interesting reading.
Current or retired employees always appreciate a walk down memory lane. You’ll find it takes a few minutes to stir up the old memories, but after that, be prepared to write fast!
As you begin, you’ll be amazed at how many events have simply vanished into the past. With a little effort and research, the pieces that have slipped away will come back into focus and can be easily captured.
Some of the most valuable experiences will be events that seemed painful at the time, but bore valuable fruit from the lessons learned.
Search the internet to gather economic facts and figures supporting growing seasons or that substantiate the difficult times. Search for copies of the headlines that accompanied the difficulty year of 2008 where no doubt everyone in your company learned a few hard lessons.
Copies of old in-print advertisements substantiate the fact that your company was in full swing in the “olden days.” Company branded promotional items are always a hit. If you’re lucky you’ll hear comments like: “I remember this thermometer on my grandpa’s patio!”
Invite team members to share photos of people, offices, memorable projects, perfect craftsmanship, award certificates and the like.
Google or take photographs of the most recent technology the year the company started. Search the attic for ancient analog test instruments and include photographs.
Find any article telling about community service offered by your company. This does much to point to the goodwill your company has developed over the years.
Images of awards from industry membership groups, certifications, or distributor awards are evidence of past achievements.
Include whatever documentation you can find, you’ll decide later what to include and what to keep in the archives.
Time to Assemble and Publish
Once you have gathered all the appropriate material you plan to include in your history, pour the information into your timeline. Grapple with the ideas until you can “see” the story come together.
Then write it. If you worry that your writing skills are not that great, find a willing soul in the office with writing ability who is enthusiastic and willing to take on the project. Be sure to reserve final editing rights for yourself.
This activity is could be of great value to you and to those associated with your company. The most important decision is to start and finish the project and then share with will all interested parties. Then sit back and think about how to use the history to increase lead development, enhance your PR and marketing, and build a lasting legacy.
I’d love to read what you’ve put together for your company’s history. Click here to share a word document or link to a website that already has your company’s history.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute -- an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a list of questions you can answer to launch your company history, contact Doc at email@example.com or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.