Why should companies treasure their history?

In business, the future often takes centre stage and the past can sometimes become lost or forgotten. When this happens, companies risk losing one of the most special and distinctive resources available to them; their heritage.

Recently Nicholls & Clarke, a provider of accessible bathing and showering solutions, discovered an old product advertisement from a 1913 publication of the time. The company was founded in 1875 and started life as a Builders Merchants on London’s Shoreditch High Street. The company now operates in 21 locations worldwide, turning over £70 million and employing over 550 staff.

Their story is impressive, however, more impressive is how Nicholls & Clarke tells that story. On the company’s website, under the ‘About Us’ category is a section called ‘History and Heritage’, proudly telling the company’s past and even featuring images taken across its long history.

How many businesses still have access to the photos of the first day they opened their shop doors? Or a cut-out of their first mention in a trade publication? All those little milestones can seem insignificant at that moment, but over time, can become utterly invaluable for telling a powerful story.

Recently, David Russell, the editor of THIIS magazine for many years, took on the task of writing the BHTA history when the association reached its 100-year milestone.

It turned into a book with 27,000 words but, as David explains, it would not have been possible without being able to get his hands-on documentation going way back.

"There was a good deal of material to work with” he explained. "The jewel in the crown was the minutes from the very first AGM in 1918 which were produced in great detail and provided plenty of information to get the story going. From around the 50’s, a lot of the Section and Council meeting minutes were typed up and then the pages were stuck into large ledgers which protected them and so reading through decades of minutes provided me with a good deal of content too.”

It seems that, as soon as BHTA started to produce newsletters for members, each issue was stored too.

"Having all those newsletters proved invaluable.” David continued. "It’s so important to keep things like that as you never know when you are going to need them. I think what we have ended up with will help tell the story of the Association in the future and answer the question – what does a trade association do? In this case, we have ended up with 128 pages that should provide the answers!"

What makes the story of a company’s heritage so valuable is that it can’t be plagiarised or copied by a competitor; it is completely unique to that company. This makes a company’s history one of the most potent and fascinating marketing tools available to them.

That story of heritage can be significant when aiming to build trust with customers. Time commands a certain level of respect, so an established company that is able to showcase longevity is automatically awarded a level of trust and respect from customers.

It is one of the reasons companies are so keen to celebrate anniversaries; it is a means of highlighting enduring success and expertise to customers and competitors alike.

Remembering where a company came from can also help ensure that its culture is not lost over the passage of time as well as its grows. Not losing sight of where the journey began can help keep a company on the right track later down the line.

Newspaper clippings, team photos, shots of new offices and old offices, uniforms and more are all chapters in the ongoing tale of a business and each time a photo goes unsnapped or a publication is thrown away, a precious chapter is lost.

Often, it is when a company is moving premises that it is most at risk of throwing away little keepsakes. Decisions are being made about what to take and what to keep and it is over this process that a decision made without considering the future could result in regretfully losing an irreplaceable part of the past.

In our industry, so many companies have inspired stories of why they started and they often begin with wanting to change someone’s life for the better. Do not let that be lost over time.