Your Story Is A Key Business Tool
I enjoy watching the TV show, The Profit. I came to enjoy this show one night while on a business trip when I was either sending off late night project emails or creating one of the endless reports that I used to do for my other job.
While focusing on the People, Product, and Process of a potential small business that Marcus Lemonis might buy there is the discovery of the entrepreneur(s) story. The story of how the business came to be born. The “why” are you doing this? I also feel that each business is born out of a dream (and occasionally a nightmare) and there is always a powerful back story to the business and the team.
People purchase the story as much as the product
In my opinion, people are wanting to connect with a story or cause more today than ever before. Maybe that is because for all the tech out in the world people are becoming more socially disconnected and are wanting to join a tribe. Even if that connection is only based on the story behind how a bag of coffee sourced, blended and roasted the story somehow makes us feel like we are part of something.
A good story can help sell a less than perfect product or pitch. I had the good fortune of being in a presentation where a young man was discussing his business that is centered on building connections between students and teachers. He had a great story and the room could glean that his background and most importantly the benefits to what he was doing were fantastic. What ended up happening was that he ran out of time before he got to the down and dirty business discussion. His pitch was all story.
Because the delivery of his story was so good, the people in the room extended him encouragement and asked follow-up questions, which brought out the business pitch through the Q&A part of the session.
In another example, I have worked with a woman who has a great story of being a refugee from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina but then started a business out of that destruction. With a library of family recipes, she is making grounds into building a business that is focused on delivering clean food products that encourage people to come together over flavourful Creole dishes.
Distancing ourselves from our stories is a big mistake
As one that can try to keep things close to the vest at times, I understand not wanting to put a lot of information out there. It can be hard to embrace stories where we have failed or haven’t executed a task perfectly.
Going back to the show, The Profit, there were two great examples where struggling small businesses were hesitant to own and express their stories. One episode focused on a watch business (Flex Watches) that had been centered around different watches for different charities. However, one of the founders was reluctant to have his own personal story of losing his mother to breast cancer be part of the overall story of the company. Sharing that story seemed to this young man to be too personal. He hadn’t fully come to terms that this traumatic event was a part of him and his story no matter if he was in business or not. The result is that customers had no idea how the association with the charities was a deeply personal choice and not a marketing gimmick. Once he started sharing his story, the reason why the company was involved with different charities went beyond doing something nice and moved into a passion and mission for the company and their customers.
Another good example of being hesitant to discuss a personal story is the recent episode of Zoe’s Chocolate. In this episode, three adult children came together to open a chocolate business for their father. It turned out that their dad came to this country a long time ago and became a chocolatier to support his family. After being a chocolatier for about 30 years, he was laid off. The kids rallied and opened a business to keep their father doing what he enjoyed doing. This story is all good stuff on the outside but internally, there was hesitation to tell the part of the story of how Zoe’s Chocolate started. For Zoe, she needed her father’s okay to discuss the deeply personal issue of being laid off.
Once the family came together and resolved that it was okay to talk about the father’s story of being an immigrant to being laid off to the children starting the new business, the story was able to be shared and is creating a valuable connection with Zoe’s customers.
Coach’s wrap up
We all have stories. Embracing your story and making sure that you own and know your story will help you in a couple of ways, it clarifies where you came from and it allows your customers to be part of your current and future story.
If you are starting a business or working on building your personal brand, take some time to explore what your foundational story is. Why are you doing what you are doing? What are you trying to solve? Once you have these questions figured out, you are on the path to owning and sharing a great story.
If you need help in either determining what your foundational story is or working on crystallizing that story, email or call me today and I will be happy to work with you.