What’s the story of your business?
Sure, you began business at a particular time and location, involving a certain set of people, and the company has changed over time. But I’m talking about something deeper than just the history. Here’s the real question: Why should anybody care?
By “anybody,” I mean your customers, your leadership team, and your employees. Each group has a unique relationship with your company, and has a need for a deeper emotional connection.
Customers need to be satisfied with your products and services, of course. You expect that they’ll continue to give you revenue if you continue to give them what they need. But that’s more complex than it looks.
Their “need” reaches well beyond just what you supply with your products or services. Your competitors are trying hard to get an advantage there, so customers need more in order to develop a loyalty to your company. You need emotional connections with your customers.
A powerful story for customers answers these kinds of questions:
- How is my life improved by my interactions with this company?
- What do I know I can count on?
- Why should I care about doing business with them?
The most powerful examples will be stories that talk about improvements in customers’ lives, dependability, and your position in the larger world.
Your leadership team
The managers and leaders in your company aren’t just administering work to be done and monitoring results. Their real value is to help employees have a reason to bring out their best productivity every day, to provide great value for customers, and to keep everyone aligned. All while optimizing results for the benefit of the business.
Your company’s story is a powerful tool to help them stay aligned, focused, and motivated. But the story for your leaders is different than that for customers, including:
- Why do we make decisions the way we do?
- What results do we value the most?
- How do we work between groups?
The most useful stories will talk about decisions, the impact of delivering value, and working together constructively.
You might think that employees are exchanging their work for your paycheck. But this is just what causes them to show up for work every day. That doesn’t demand that they care about the company, its customers, or your goals.
If you want them engaged in their work and to deliver consistent quality, then you need to answer some key questions:
- What are employees rewarded for?
- Why is my contribution important?
- Why does the company do what it does?
The most compelling examples will be stories which give examples of reward and recognition, stellar contributions, and the company’s values and ideals.
Bringing it together
Let’s suppose that we’re operating a machine shop that makes custom parts for agricultural equipment. We have 18 employees under two supervisors, and a head salesman who does account development.
Our stories for customers will talk about how we have consistently delivered excellent quality parts, on time. Perhaps we have an example where a supervisor drove 12 hours to hand-deliver some corrected products which replaced some defects. We can talk about how a customer won a key contract because of the quality of the work we’d done.
The stories for our leaders will include the time that we had to make a tough decision that placed quality above speed of delivery. We can make an example of a mistake in coordination, where the departments then worked quickly together to identify and solve the issue, thus saving the day for an important customer.
For employees, our stories will include testimonials of longtimers who have built their family’s happiness around the work and social culture of the company. We’ll relate how the company was started on a shoestring, and found success by the way it served customers with high quality products. We can reinforce the values and priorities through the results that we report every month.
We’re not making up these stories – that would be dishonest and manipulative. What we’re doing is searching for existing events that give the best examples of what we’d like to promote.
Sure, there was an embarrassment about how we mistreated a customer and almost lost the account. If we’re going to use this as one of our stories, then we’d better make sure it’s in the form of a cautionary tale, and can’t be taken as an example of good behavior. We also have to be careful because the negative can feel like punishment, which is less powerful than a positive, uplifting story.
Get out there and promote some stories which will give people the emotional connection they need!
Carl Dierschow is a Small Fish Business Coach based in Fort Collins. His website is www.smallfish.us. Look for him in his booth at Bixpo on Sept. 15.