7 Best Practices for Creating a Memorable Company History Book

01 Feb 2022


Companies are like living organisms that take on a life of their own over time.

Like living organisms, companies change and evolve. They experience success and challenges leading them through a transformative process.

Chronicling a company’s history can become an integral part of that evolutionary process.

Keeping a detailed account of a company spurs evolution by helping future generations understand the corporation’s founding principles. Moreover, a company history helps future members avoid past mistakes.

Understanding a company’s origins allows its current generation of staff members to revisit the values and principles that made the organization great.

Creating a memorable company history book is essential for preserving the company’s identity. It can also be a useful resource for guiding employees to take actions in line with the company’s culture and priorities.

7 Best Practices for Writing a Company History Book

1. Look for inspiration in other companies

A great first step for starting the journey of creating a company history is to look for inspiration in other corporations.

Many business giants have recorded their enterprise’s narrative using a variety of approaches. By reading the history of other companies, corporate executives can find a suitable format for their own company’s history book.

Consider “The Microsoft Way” by Randall E. Stross (Basic Books). In this book, the author chronicles Microsoft’s rise to corporate prominence by highlighting its singular ability to outsmart its competition. Moreover, the book underscores how Microsoft’s company culture was pivotal in taking over the technology industry.

The Microsoft Way was published in 1997 after Microsoft spent 20 years shaping the technology scene. The author divided the company’s story into four distinctive parts:

  • Beginning- How the idea for the company emerged.
  • Growth- How Microsoft gained a foothold with its customers.
  • Expansion – How Microsoft became an industry leader.
  • Monopoly- How Microsoft progressively dominated the market.

The story’s overarching theme links each historical period, underscoring Microsoft’s successful journey. Essentially every company’s history goes through specific phases or periods. The challenge is to identify the turning points in which one period ends and another begins. This structure gives readers a clear perspective on the journey a company has taken from its origin to its current market position. Along the way, the company’s values and principles serve as the common thread linking each distinctive phrase.

A good place to start is by dividing a company’s history into main segments. These segments should serve as signposts throughout the writing process. Ultimately, clearly defined turning points should demarcate the end of each phase and the beginning of the next one.

2. Showcase highs and lows

Well-written company history books showcase breakthrough achievements and important accomplishments. Often, the book revolves around an innovative product or unique service of the company. It can focus on a consistent track record of success. Each period covered in the company’s history may center on its most significant achievements.

There will undoubtedly be instances in which a company’s history includes failures, mistakes, and financial losses.

While it may be tempting to leave out these events, company history authors must consider including them. In doing so, the narrative can adequately reflect the company’s path toward its current state.

A great example is “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone (Little, Brown, and Company). This book highlights Jeff Bezos’s journey of taking an innovative idea and transforming it into the corporate behemoth that became Amazon. Along the way, Amazon suffered setbacks and growing pains. Building a company history narrative around important milestones can lead to an engaging book readers will truly enjoy.

3. Bring back the memories

People are the most valuable resource in any company. As management guru Zig Ziglar once said, “You build a better company by building better people.” Indeed, good people make good companies. As such, people hold the keys to unlocking the formula behind a company’s history. While the public may see a company’s achievements, it is the employees who know the story behind the story. Building a company history book using people’s accounts provides significant depth to the book’s overall narrative.

Interviews are a great way of getting first-hand accounts of events and experiences. Ideally, accounts from people at various levels are collected. Of course, CEOs and top executives can provide valuable insight.

But including middle managers, clerks, factory workers, and even maintenance staff can enrich the narrative with their unique perspectives.

Nevertheless, it is important to delineate the number of accounts in the book’s narrative. Including too many stories might bloat the overall story, and the book’s main focus could get lost in the shuffle. It is best to find a sample size that is representative of every level in the company.

“McDonald’s: Behind the Arches” by John F. Love (Bantam Books) provides a unique behind-the-scenes narrative of the McDonald’s company. In particular, this book focuses on the role of employees in making McDonald’s a successful company. McDonald’s employment program targeted seniors and disabled individuals. The book provides first-hand accounts from those workers that contributed to McDonald’s success.

In the end, getting first-hand accounts from current and former staff members provides depth and perspective that readers will appreciate. Finding a representative sample size within every company level can give the narrative both substance and an interesting human element.

4. Build a company timeline

Breaking up a company history book into major phases or eras provides a systematic overview of the company’s evolution. It might be necessary to provide more specific chronological details for particular accomplishments.

Building a timeline helps smooth the transition between one achievement and another. Timelines are especially useful when a company’s history is extensive.

Organizing facts, achievements, and significant events in chronological order help readers maintain a clear picture of the company’s evolution.

Foregoing a chronological approach may result in a confusing narrative. In particular, identifying causal relationships between events and outcomes may become quite difficult to achieve. Ultimately, readers will not get the full picture surrounding the company’s overall growth and development.

“When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-term Capital Management” by Roger Lowenstein (Random House) chronicles the rise and fall of the world’s largest hedge fund at the time. To paint an accurate picture of this company’s history, the author detailed the events leading up to the company’s catastrophic failure in painstaking chronological order. Of course, this book ends on a sour note. Nevertheless, it is a great example of how building a narrative through a clear timeline helps the reader fully comprehend how and why specific events unfolded.

5. Hire a professional ghostwriter

Often, company history books require outside help from a professional. Because of their magnitude, a professional ghostwriter is often brought in to complete these projects successfully. Their level of involvement can vary, depending on the company’s preference. For example, a company can strictly hire a ghostwriter to gather information and craft the book’s narrative. Others may be asked also to conduct interviews, do research, and then write the book.

Hiring a professional ghostwriter addresses several challenges. First, companies may lack experienced in-house writers capable of producing a high-quality company history book. Second, in-house staff may not have the time to focus on producing a company history book. Third, external pressure may be necessary to jumpstart a languishing project.

Not all ghostwriters specialize in producing company history books. Therefore, companies must take the time to find the right ghostwriter for the job. In doing so, companies can ensure that a high-quality company history book will be representative of the company’s desired image.

Companies can also save time and effort in producing their history book by hiring a professional ghostwriter. Particularly, a professional ghostwriter can take the burden off in-house staff. Tasking in-house staff with a company history project could require them to take time out from their core functions. It could even force them to work overtime to get the project off the ground.

A great example of how a professional ghostwriter can help get a project off the ground is Barbara Corcoran’s book “Shark Tales. How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business.” Corcoran takes readers through a chronicle of her life and her business model in this title. At first glance, the book resembles an autobiography. Nevertheless, a closer look reveals an in-depth analysis of valuable business lessons. Moreover, these lessons illustrate how a creative entrepreneur can build a successful business on a shoestring budget.

The Kevin Anderson Agency, a ghostwriting and editing firm, collaborated on this book’s production. This agency has helped hundreds of business leaders produce their company history materials. Thus, hiring a ghostwriter, or ghostwriting agency, helps take the burden off having to navigate the entire content creation and editing process. In doing so, business leaders can save considerable time and effort, allowing them to focus on reviewing the book’s narrative and content.

6. Illustrate it

 A great company history book makes use of photographs and illustrations to make it come alive. Including high-quality images can create a visually interesting book that delivers on substance.

A great rule of thumb is to use photographs to illustrate the company’s transition from one time period to another.

For example, the book can contain pictures reflecting how its storefronts changed over time. Also, an illustrated chronicle of company logos is a wonderful way to reflect a company’s evolution.

Additionally, pictures of staff working, changing equipment, or portraits of influential leaders can help readers put a face to the stories throughout the narrative.

“Drive”: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age” by Lawrence Goldstone chronicles the rise of the Ford Motor Company as it competed against its rivals. Throughout this book, illustrations such as photographs, diagrams, and blueprints show how automobile production evolved, leading to the emergence of the automobile age.

Specifically, this book’s illustrations serve to show the innovations that Henry Ford implemented in his production processes. As a result, these illustrations are enlightening, particularly to those who may not be familiar with the technology of the time. Moreover, the photos shown throughout the book help transport readers to a completely different period in history.

7. Get professional help

Hiring a ghostwriter is a crucial part of getting professional help. There may also be a need to bring on other professionals. For example, hiring a professional historian can help both a ghostwriter and a company produce a high-quality and accurate company history book.

Professional historians can help a ghostwriter frame the company’s evolution within its broader historical context.

Also, a professional historian can help fill in gaps. For instance, a professional historian can help source information and documentary evidence to support accounts in the book.

This approach provides something highly valuable to the narrative: authenticity. Indeed, having a truly authentic narrative helps paint a company history that is consistent with the company’s values and principles.

Additionally, professionals such as librarians, archivists, journalists, older citizens, and teachers can all provide additional insight into a company’s history. Finding excellent sources of information will give a company history book the depth it needs to back up its credibility and authenticity.

Final Thoughts

Producing a high-quality company history book requires a combination of information, imagination, and attention to detail. It should include baseline facts such as dates and names as well as personal accounts of the people who have driven the company’s evolution and success.

Creating a memorable narrative may require the help of external professionals, such as a professional ghostwriter. Assistance from professional historians, librarians, and archivists can also assist in gathering the information needed to make a company history book come to life.

Lastly, a company history book should reflect the values and principles that made the company a success. Breaking down the narrative into phrases that accurately reflect its highs and lows provides an authentic view of the company’s evolution. Creating a true depiction of the company’s unique journey is the ultimate goal of a company history book.

Zach Richter 

Related Content

  • 0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *