leanor Foa Dienstag

Corporate Histories

Are you seeking a permanent and meaningful way to celebrate an upcoming historical milestone in your company, one that brings pride and prestige as well as multiple marketing and public relations opportunities?

Create a corporate history.

Are you eager to capture your family's unique story before those with the longest memories are gone?

Create a family history.

If you need an experienced, empathic, energetic corporate history or family history writer, contact me to discuss the range of options—from a coffee-table book, an in-depth history, a book/video combination, a chapbook or memoir—available to you as a public company, non-profit, professional association, individual or family.

Corporate histories are increasingly popular. Those of us who write corporate histories are a small, select group, of which I am a charter member. I love the whole process of writing and researching corporate histories, especially interviewing employees and telling their stories. These interviews are often punctuated with laughter, tears and intense emotion from men and women who have given their all to the company. Corporate history writing is a genre that pulls together my background as an historian, my experience as a corporate writer, my talents as a researcher/interviewer, plus my ability to travel wherever the story leads.

Family histories, much like corporate histories, are built upon and around the warm and dramatic recollections—be they stories, anecdotes, diaries, archives—of family members as well as their colleagues and friends. They bring to life, conserve and memorialize unique individuals, as well the era in which they lived.

Below are excerpts, reviews and testimonials from selected corporate histories.

In Good Company: 125 Years At The Heinz Table (Warner Books)

"In Good Company is a corporate history as compelling as a novel."
Ray Brady, CBS News, Business Correspondent

"At last, a readable corporate history. Indeed, In Good Company is a fascinating history of the Heinz family and the hugely successful H.J. Heinz Company, beautifully written by Eleanor Foa Dienstag. One can learn more about how to succeed in business from this book than from a shelf of management books."
John Naisbitt, Author of 8 books, including Megatrends, Inventing the Corporation, and High Tech High Touch

"Eleanor's history of Heinz offers a rare glimpse of the early years of one of America's leading firms. Through intense archival searches, insightful observations and intimate interviews, she drew a colorful and accurate picture of Heinz its leaders, our brands and the worldwide consumers we serve. Eleanor pulled together scraps, bits and splinters of Heinz's past and made our employees and shareholders proud of Heinz's important contributions to a range of business and humanitarian causes ranging from the 1906 Pure Food Act to support of agri-business in sub-Saharan Africa. Her engaging writing style and personal charm were of equal importance to the book's success and acclaim."
Deborah S. Foster, Vice President—Corporate Communications
H.J. Heinz Company

"Few families had the global impact of the Heinz's. In Good Company is a must read for anyone interested in the creation and evolution of an American legacy, a corporation that spans the world, and the family behind and within the corporation."
Robert S. Sullivan, Dean, Graduate School of Industrial Administration
Carnegie Mellon University

In Good Company is a unique view of a quintessential American company marking its 125th anniversary. The company's colorful cast of characters and global cornucopia of products are the stuff of history, business and marketing legends. It is a never-before-told story of the people, products and strategies that transformed a backyard vegetable patch in post-Civil War Pittsburgh into a $7 billion global business.

In Good Company profiles the five CEOs whose canny leadership helped the company grow despite bankruptcy, the Great Depression, two World Wars and countless business challenges. It also profiles the product "stories"—ketchup, baby food, beans and soup—and family brands—Ore Ida, StarKist, Weight Watchers—that contributed to the company's expansion.

In Good Company took three years to research and write. I conducted hundreds of interviews with current and retired Heinz employees in the U.S., Europe and South America, and poured over family and company archives, including diaries, letters, scrapbooks and speeches. Uncovering the human stories and personalities behind the headlines was an immense challenge and major reward.

Marketing and Promotion of In Good Company

In Good Company was promoted with a media and public relations campaign which included a book tour, interviews with print, radio and television journalists, book store signings and speaking engagements. Based on insights provided by In Good Company, Biography, on the A&E Television Network, produced "Heinz: The Ketchup Kings." The program includes on-screen commentary by the author, and continues to be re-run.

Excerpt from "The Introduction" to In Good Company

"Henry John Heinz, in novelist Edith Wharton's phrase, was one of the 'Lords of Pittsburgh,' a man both ahead of his time and rooted in his time. And what a time it was for Pittsburgh! Its mills and army of laborers forging iron, steel and glass; its three-river port overflowing with commerce; it's citizens devoted to business; its sooty skies a testament to prosperity; the entire city bent to the creation of profit and wealth. In fact, as the short story writer O'Henry, observed, 'Everybody worked in Pittsburgh, and it wasn't for lack of money.'

Out of the post-Civil War soil of Pittsburgh rose five titans of industry—Carnegie, Mellon, Westinghouse, Frick and Heinz. Their names still resonate in our ears. So do three of their five businesses. This is indeed a remarkable record since by 1947 only 30 of the 825 firms in operation in 1873 still were independent operations, most of them iron and steel. Of the 63 firms making food in 1873, only one survives: Heinz....

Henry John Heinz was a remarkable man. An energetic, entrepreneurial boy from a pastoral village near Pittsburgh ('Oh, we country boys work') who was not only a business genius, but a man of high moral principle and personal rectitude. In 1869, when he founded the company, those qualities rarely coexisted in business. It was an age when horses were often better treated than workers, when the unchecked exploitation of men, women and children was as common as influenza.

Henry John Heinz was different. He behaved as though his factory was still his mother's spotless kitchen. Others might cook and package their food in filthy warehouses under unsanitary conditions. In his factories, floors were hosed and swept regularly. Others might bribe and break laws to gain new markets. He paid grocers to remove aging Heinz products from their shelves. Others might hide cheap fillers in tinted glass to increase profits. He insisted on the best ingredients and clear jars to display the purity of Heinz products.

Henry John Heinz also treated his employees as though they were members of his family. He believed that if you treat people fairly and decently, they will be happier and more productive in their labor. In 19th-century America, that was a radical approach to employer-employee relations, especially with regard to women on an assembly line. Imagine—not only did he provide his assembly-line workers with clean clothes and indoor facilities for washing (when most had no indoor plumbing), but he insisted on providing a weekly manicure to those who worked with food. A weekly manicure! Later, too, as business boomed, he built two roof gardens (one for men and one for women), where employees could relax, stroll and get a bit of fresh air. He also built a gymnasium, swimming pool, library, auditorium for free lectures and concerts, male and female dining rooms (replete with a piano to be played by a talented fellow worker), and made available to employees a Heinz carriage and team of horses, so they could be driven, like men and women of leisure, through the city's parks.

Known as the 'Prince of Paternalism,' his philosophy may have had its limitations—no dialogues about workers' rights were ever recorded—but it's clear that the deeply religious, teetotaling Henry Heinz, a stalwart of the Sunday School movement, was a man who rewarded hard work, and prized fairness, honesty, integrity and quality. He did not simply mouth these principles, he lived them.

To the astonishment of many of his employees, he never abided sharp or deceptive practices, yet he still managed to turn quite a profit. Indeed, the peripatetic Henry John Heinz, rarely at his desk, always on the go—around the country, around the world—turned a small, local business into an international food business and one of the country's great family fortunes."

For inquiries or to obtain a signed, first edition of In Good Company, please contact me at: efoa@usa.net

Poets & Writers: Celebrating and Serving America's Poets & Writers for 30 Years

"When Poets & Writers hired Eleanor to write its chapbook celebrating its 30th Anniversary, we had doubts that anyone could make this story interesting. We are, after all, a service organization that helps creative writers. We very much believe in the value of what we do, but our work is not particularly glamorous. So we were pleasantly surprised that Eleanor created a very lively, entertaining chapbook that captures the spirit of the organization. She was thorough in her research and inventive in her writing. We continue to take great pride in the chapbook and to distribute it to donors and supporters."
Elliot Figman, Executive Director, Poets & Writers, Inc.

Excerpt from Poets and Writers: 1970-1981: The Early Years

"When Galen Williams founded Poets & Writers, she had no idea she was launching a major literary organizationshe just wanted to direct arts funding to poets and novelists, expand audiences for literature and put to good use the vast amount of information she had meticulously gathered about writers and speaking venues during her years at the Y. 'In 30 years we've gone from being a mom-and-pop store to being a 21st-century organization with a sophisticated Web site,' says Williams, despite the fact that she remains, in her words, "a computer virgin." Nevertheless, she is delighted by the fact that the Web site gets 1,500 visits a day, because the new medium fulfills a goal she envisioned so many years ago. 'We are here to help writers help themselves,' she says. 'That is the most important thing we do'."

American Society of Corporate Secretaries: 50 Years of Change and Growth

To commemorate the Society's first 50 years, and honor the contribution of its members to the development of corporate governance, a 50th anniversary project group within the Society decided to underwrite a print and video history of the organization. I conducted extensive interviews with members—by phone, and in person—many during the Society's annual meeting at The Greenbriar. The handsomely illustrated 50-page soft-cover book was privately printed and distributed, with a video, to the Society's members.

Excerpt From 50 Years in the Boardroom: Women in the Society

"Between 1946 and 1954, the Society's Regional Groups regularly received and rejected applications from female Corporate Secretaries. A key barrier to accepting women in the New York Region was recorded in the December 18, 1952 Society Minutes. 'If women were admitted, it would entail holding monthly meetings in a place other than the Harvard Club, because the rules of said Club exclude women. It was suggested that an associate membership could be granted to women...however, after further discussion the question was tabled for the time being.'

The following year, Executive Director Leonard Genz polled the membership and reported at a Board meeting, 'It was evident that the majority did not favor admitting women at the present time.'

During this period, Mrs. Kathleen Siebert, an attorney and Corporate Secretary of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, applied for membership after running across a mention of the Society in a book. 'I got a nice rejection that said the by-laws did not permit lady members,' recalled Siebert, now 92. 'I thought, well, maybe they'll change their by-laws.' Persistent, she applied five years in succession, starting in 1959. 'The fifth time I got a reply from Mr. Leonard Genz.' Her application had been accepted.

The acceptance letter, a copy of her Society Membership Certificate dated March 31, 1954, and a group photograph of attendees at her first National Conference ('There are all the gentlemen with me sitting in the front row") were framed together by Siebert and still hangs on her wall."

For Persuasive Communications Solutions, contact:
Eleanor Foa Associates
Tel 212-879-1542
E-mail at efoa@usa.net