Steve Jobs was a high-school dropout who was able to go from building computers out of a garage into owning a 700 billion dollar company. Before David H. McConnell founded Avon, he sold books door to door. Starbucks was named after a character in Herman Melville's novel, Moby Dick.
How your company got started and how it's grown to where it is today is a fascinating story that many small business owners don't think to share on their websites, - or they do so in a way that doesn't properly engage their customers or reflect their company culture. Showcasing the journey, from conception to company, can build trust and respect as well as tell potential customers a little more about who you are.
Whether your business is just a year old, or it spans a decade, you've got the material you need and a story to tell. Here's how you can turn those challenges and achievements into a compelling company history people will want to read.
Tell It Like A Story
If you've ever taken a few minutes to scope the "About Us" or "History" sections of a small business, you've likely seen that many of them stick to written timelines or long lists of achievements, if they've included these topics at all. Unfortunately, these ways of telling your company story can be dull to read or so industry-specific that they don't properly convey the information you'd like to get across to the average customer, let alone the richness of your personal journey.
When telling your company's history, consider writing it like an actual tale with story elements. Where does your story start and where does it end? Who are the characters involved and what are they like? What are their motivations? What conflicts do they face? What amusing hiccups have taken place? Write your story descriptively with lots of detail. Including photos of your first office space, your first team, your first products, or the first dollar your company made can add a lot of flavor for your readers. If you don't have a lot of photos available, you may want to partner with a graphic designer who can create images that correspond with each big moment.
You can also give your story multiple layers and multiple perspectives by having employees provide a favorite memory. Reminiscing their first days of work operating out of an RV, or sitting around a restaurant discussing mottos and mission statements can really heighten the spirit of your small business story.
Start At Your Roots
You may be compelled to just skip over the first year of your business where you feel like you didn't really do anything. You may consider jumping a year or three ahead because it wasn't until then that you really got the ball rolling. Don't. Growing a small business out of nothing is the American Dream. It's a story people don't get tired of hearing. It inspires hundreds of thousands of people every year to say, "Hey, I can do that!" pushing them to file for their own DBA, LLC or Inc. It may have been someone else's success story that encouraged you. The fact that you worked full-time while running your business, that you used to offer one service and now offer another, or that you had the name of your company picked out 10 years before you actually launched it, are all compelling pieces of information that help shape your company's story. So start at the beginning. The real beginning. Not only will this make for a more honest story, it will make a more interesting one.
Don't Include Everything
While an engaging company story is more in-depth than a list of bullet points, you don't want to share everything. Not only would this make your history too long (save it for your book), you probably don't want to include everything. You generally want to keep things positive, while including a few challenges you've overcome along the way. Here are a few ideas on what to include, and what not to include, so that you can start planning the events that take place in your story. What To Include
- When it was founded
- What sets it apart
- Major turning points
- Big achievements
- Solutions to conflicts
- Development of core values
- Funny anecdotes
- Key hirings
- Growth statistics
What Not To Include:
- Failed products/services
- Legal issues
- Image issues
- Financial problems (unless overcome by a big success)
If you're looking to attract investors or partners, you may want to focus the majority of your history on growth. They'll want to see that you have a good track record of successful product launches and smart decisions. If you're a brand-new company and you don't have a lot of achievements, awards, turning points, or challenges just yet, you may want to reframe your company history into yours and your employee's histories. How long have you been in the industry? Where have you worked? What are some of your professional achievements?
Showcase Your Happy Ending
The story of how your business began and the rate at which it has grown are key components to your company's image, but where your business is now and where it's going may be even more crucial to convey. While the majority of your company's story will be leading up to current day, it's important that you take time to demonstrate where your future lies. What types of customers and clients are you currently serving? In which states or countries are you doing business? What type of products are your best sellers or which services are the most popular? What new services can your customers expect? How many people currently work at your company? What are your goals for the next year? The next five years? Will you be entering new realms of your industry? Including this forward-focused information shows your potential custmomers that your company isn't stagnant and that your happy ending isn't really your ending after all.