Your Company’s History, is History

Is it important to KFC that Colonel Sanders wasn’t really a real Colonel?

Is it important to suburban teen clothing company, Hollister Co. that none of it’s history is real?

Is it important to your company about how it was started, who started it, etc. You know, the backstory.  Is your company’s backstory important to your business?

We like to believe it is, and I think for some organizations it’s important to their guiding mission. But, let’s face it, for most of us, it’s just a story. Culver’s has tells us some of their story about burgers and frozen custard in their commercials, but let’s face it, I’m not eating their because of their history.  I eating their because their cheeseburgers and ice cream are delicious!  I don’t care if their beginnings were in a prison kitchen, I’m buying!

Most people think like this.

Walmart has one of the best American made beginning of all time, and people hate them! They are arguably America’s biggest success of a company, but since they are no longer a small retailer from Arkansas, and began world domination, we hate them. We hate they became successful, and now sell stuff to us really cheap from China.

I believe it’s great to know your company’s history. Where you came from and how you got started. The problem many organizations run into is that they try to live in that past.  “Well, we started out selling washers, and we need to keep selling washers.” Even though our clients can now buy them overseas for 90% less than what you sell them for. This is why companies go under. This is why so many companies who were once great, are no more.

Your company’s history is valuable if people believe it’s actually a differentiator of your brand and success.  Once it no longer holds this designation, it’s just another old story.

Most organizations put way more value on their beginning, on their history, than is needed.  They do this because usually the person, or people, who were are apart of this history is still around.  This is ‘really’ important to them.  This is their legacy.  It might not be the ultimate legacy of the organization, but it is their legacy, now.

One of the hardest things you’ll ever come against as a leader is moving past your organization’s history, if it becomes a roadblock to moving your organization forward.  For many employees this becomes that one thing they can hold onto as true.  It’s what they know, and it doesn’t change. Creating new history is scary and unknown.  So, employees tend to fight back and hold on to the organizational history hard!

Getting employees to buy into the fact they can create and be apart of your new history moving forward is key to getting past your old history.  Your organizational history is just that, history.  Don’t make your history more than it has to be, especially if it isn’t adding value to your future.  If your history equals your brand, you better make sure that is what people want to buy!

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