Family Businesses Find Hidden Value in telling their stories!

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"Creating a formal family business history can be a crucial element of the succession planning process" states Don Schwerzler, founder of Atlanta-based Family Business Institute and their Internet organization, Family Business Experts. The process for creating a formal history of the family business produces a large number of benefits - many of which can significantly enhance the growth and value of the family business.

"How your company came into being, the vision of the founder(s), how the company overcame the inevitable changes and challenges through the years, the contributions the company has made to the community… all add up to a great story" states Phil Bellury, a family business history expert with the Atlanta-based Family Business Institute and their Internet organization Family Business Experts.

And not just a story for your children at bedtime. People in your company, others in your industry, and the community at large all benefit from a deeper knowledge and understanding of your company’s heritage.

There are many reasons to create a formal history. A few of the more important are:

Founder’s Vision and Mission. Why was the company founded in the first place? Over time, as the company’s leadership changes hands, families often lose the founder’s original vision and sense of mission.

Historical Accuracy. Without a formal history, people will rely on hearsay or someone’s biased or misinformed perception. The company’s early history and its role in the community can be lost or misunderstood, if it is not somehow documented and preserved.

Honoring Longtime Employees. Many times, longtime employees or retirees feel as if their contributions to the company have been forgotten. Family business owners may want to honor their efforts and their faithfulness in some meaningful way beyond the traditional “gold watch.”

Thanking Customers and Vendors. In any business, maintaining good relationships with customers and vendors is critical, especially when the relationships have stood the test of time. Owners need a way to document and publicly thank them for their partnership over the years.

Background for the Uninformed. New hires, potential clients, bankers and investors may not know the company’s background and may not be aware of the company’s inherent strengths and its future potential. As illustrated by Liz Walker’s story, the general public and the media are always curious to know the real story.

Corporate history books or video histories are great tools for solving these and other issues. In the final analysis, a documented history of your company makes good business sense.

Primary Benefits:

Written histories “set the record straight” and document forever how and why a business came to be. Left to the rumor mill, stories about your company can become exaggerated, twisted – or worse. Sometimes those negative stories can become destructive to the reputation of the company or its owners.

A company history book or video can acknowledge and honor the hard work and perseverance of the founders, succeeding owners, company leadership and longtime employees.

The interdependence between the company and community is documented, as well as the owner’s individual contributions and involvement in community affairs.

Succeeding family members have a resource from which they can enhance their understanding of the legacy they have inherited, which in turn makes them better equipped to articulate it. The same holds true for company spokespersons, stockholders and employees.

Documenting the company’s contributions and commitment to the community builds a sense of confidence to clients, potential clients, vendors, financers and new employees who become a part of the company’s history.

Gathering information from and interviewing with family members and employees can be unifying and fun. The process of preparing a written recorded history of the family business can even draw the community into the project thereby strengthening relationships with other companies and key individuals.

A hardbound book on the lobby coffee table enhances the company’s image and reputation. History books and history videos are additions to PR press kits or to add to your marketing collateral.

Content created for books and videos can be repurposed for other media including company brochures, websites, press releases, newsletters… even a television program for local or regional broadcast.

"Most importantly", notes Phil Bellury, "family businesses who produce a quality history book or video have something tangible, something that will always be valued and treasured. When you create a family history, you establish a lasting and true legacy for future generations."

Schwerzler indicated that families interested in writing the history of their family's business can find some very helpful hints on the Family Business Experts web site.


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Don Schwerzler