Family_Lines_chamber_blogThis past week I was a guest blogger for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. I wrote about company histories being stories worth telling. The post was sent out in the June 30th issue of eConnecting, the chamber’s digital newsletter. Unfortunately, the link under my introduction doesn’t work so I’ve posted the piece below.

Corporate histories: investing in your future

Businesses look to the future. Why? Because the future is what companies, big or small, invest time, money and other resources in. The future is where the payoffs come and rewards are

reaped. We’re fixated on what’s ahead and we forget to look behind us. However, our company pasts are just as important to our future successes. Corporate histories give us an understanding of the past and they’re a powerful tool for the future in both business and relationships.

Stories are the means to tell people – prospective clients, customers and shareholders – about a company’s culture: how it was created and built and what is expected. It’s a history to be proud of as well as a powerful communication tool. The Calgary Stampede is a great example of an organization successfully blending the past and today. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has been part of our city for over one hundred years: a legacy thanks to Guy Weadick and the “Big Four.” The anecdote of how they got the Stampede up and racing more than a century ago is told over and over again. It’s part of Calgary’s history, our story, and draws thousands of Albertans and tourists to our city.

Soft forms of capital

Besides increasing business, corporate stories are also an investment in your future when you factor in soft forms of capital such as reputation, trust, goodwill, image and relationships. Tell a strong company narrative that includes being open, honest and transparent along with demonstrating a good financial performance, reliable products and services. Randy McCord, business director and founding member of the National Best Financial Network, said an authentic story speaks volumes about, and for, a company.

“It lets employees and the community read between the lines. It’s not all about business: it’s also about successes, challenges, problems and most of all — people. These make for compelling stories.”

Compelling stories

Interesting stories aren’t only about achievements but obstacles too. Don’t ignore valuable lessons learned from big and small mistakes that helped your company get to where it is today. This kind of narrative thread also gives people insight into your business culture and leadership over the years, as well as how the company has persevered.

Anniversaries and milestones are celebrated because of the hard work you and your staff do to reach landmark occasions. Sharing everyone’s story, from management to the shop floor, helps strengthen your brand as well as deepen employees’ beliefs and trust in their roles within the company. Bottom line: it makes people feel good and they’ll tell others. Besides company/employee benefits, a corporate history also breathes new life into old product lines, reinforces corporate culture and enhances recruiting efforts.

Corporate narratives can be a strategy for onboarding as well as a strategy in the succession planning process. Use the experiences of your past and present staff to fill in the blanks for new hires. Instead of only using directives and manuals, pass on company knowledge, skills and insight by way of a documented story from executives and other employees.

Social media

Now that you have a company history, don’t let it sit on a dusty shelf: put it to work. Expand and engage your audience by connecting through different social media platforms. Tweet out old photos of your company’s first office. Compare it to where you are now. Post a quote on Facebook from a founding member and ask people if the saying still rings true. Use excerpts of your story as blog posts or in advertising.

Your business is a rich source of material that’s probably not being used to its full potential. Corporate histories are unique stories that also illustrate leadership, business strategies and dovetail with marketing and social media campaigns. Experience counts in the corporate world and should be shared. What will you share?