Why family businesses resist company histories

Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply understands the value of its corporate history. "Finally all the facts, dates, and stories are together in one place. We love our book!" said VP Kristin Dempsey, pictured between her dad, founder Patrick Dempsey, and brother PJ, the current CEO.

Family businesses often resist corporate histories. Why? A few reasons we hear:

“We know our history already.”
“Why spill secrets to the competition?”
“Will future generations care?”
“Why spend the money?”

Some questions in return:

“Why miss the chance to celebrate and strengthen the brand you worked so hard to create?”
“Are your founders of an age where if they don’t tell their stories soon, those stories may disappear forever?”
“Do you believe in the adage that what gets measured (or recorded) gets done?”
“Ten, 20, or 50 years from now, will people know what you did and why it mattered?”

Your history is virtually invisible unless you leave a record in writing. It doesn’t have to be a traditional book, though that’s still the most efficient way to create a lasting record. You can also consider an illustrated booklet, a presentation for the About Us pages of your website and social media, and oral histories captured on video, in writing, or both. Whether you keep it small-scale or go all-out, however, don’t cut corners. The quality of what you show the world reflects who you are.

At CorporateHistory.net, we’ve created books for numerous family businesses including Annin Flagmakers, BAYADA Home Health Care, Bel Fuse, The Libman Company, Oakshire Mushrooms, and Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, whose VP Kristin Dempsey sums up the value best: “Finally all the facts, dates, and stories are together in one place. We love our book!” Dempsey also has a great little video—an effective timeline with captions and music—posted at the end of its About Us page and on YouTube.

Bottom line, documenting your history is a little like having kids. It’s less about the financial bottom line than about honoring your past and committing to the future. Commissioning a professional history can be the best gift you give your family-owned company.