Simple stories, super results for startups

It might be strange to think that storytelling can be a powerful tool for startups. But stories provide a fantastic way to explore the purpose of your new business, what it stands for, what it will be like and how you will achieve your vision.

The great thing about stories is that we are all designed to be storytellers. Every time we talk about why we are starting a business, every time we share our idea of what the business will be achieving in the future we are sharing stories.

When we do this, we are influencing others – sometimes these stories change our thinking, sometimes they help us and those around us to understand and accept new ideas. So with stories, being such a powerful tool for new business owners, here are 4 simple strory-telling techniques you can use to get results;

1. The values story

As entrepreneurs, we have values that we want to live by, that drive us. When we share stories about those values with our first employees, our customers, our suppliers, we make these values explicit.

Most established companies state those values, almost preach them and expect people to live by them. And in so many companies the values that show up in reality, don’t match the stated values at all. For your start-up business, you can be clear about them so that they are at the heart of the enterprise you develop.

How can you bring this to life? Firstly, think about the values that made you start up this business – was it to deliver a great service, to innovate, to create a great working environment?

Now think about a time when you they experienced someone living one of those stated values, or when you yourself lived them. Relate the story to the core purpose of your business. Record that story – in writing, on video, on your website – and share it with people.

Doing this acts as a reminder to you and to others what is at the heart of this business, especially when challenging times come, when you and your business are being tested.

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2. The “what went well” story

When I am running my business, I can get a bit focussed on overcoming the challenges, on addressing problems. We entrepreneurs have to face up to the these challenges, knowing that in the end it comes down to us – we can look to others to support for sure, but the responsibility is ours.

There are times when we can become overwhelmed, when we forget to see the good that we have achieved too. And when we forget these positive things, it can come across to our staff, our customers, our partners, and influence their confidence in the business.

There is a fantastic technique by psychologist Martin Seligman called “What Went Well”. When I work with entrepreneurs in workshops, I ask participants to describe something that went well over the past few days, the role they played in making that thing go well, and the impact on others.

For something so simple, it is surprisingly effective. People feel valued and they get an emotional boost from focussing on something they have achieved, something of value to others.

When I added this technique into my own daily reflections, the atmosphere around my business changed, and so did my level of confidence and success.

3. The “look back in pride” story

Lots of organisations are forced to go through change, and this is especially the case for entrepreneurs, who are natural innovators and experimenters.

Before we are ready to move forward with anything new, it really helps to look back in pride. I ask people in workshops to tell stories to celebrate what was successful about their past. This helps us to recognise what makes us strong, what gives us a solid foundation upon which to build the changes to come.

I worked with a client that had an amazing track record of customer service, and when he shared his stories about that track record, he realised he had what it takes to build a new business based on that track record.

Exploring that history made him feel ready for whatever was going to come his way, and committed to making sure the customer was at the heart of whatever he did next.

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4. The pre-mortem story

It is our nature to do post-mortems. To look back in time and look at the things that happened and how they led to us being here. Those stories can have power for sure and we can learn from them but I love pre-mortem stories even more.

When we do a pre-mortem, we project ourselves to the future and believe that our goal, whatever it is, has come true already.

For entrepreneurs, this is most often looking at the business when it has achieved its vision. Then we look back from that future time and tell the story of how we got to that future.

We share the successes, the failures and the path that got us there. And having imagined it, it sets the scene for us to take that route with courage, because in our minds, we have already achieved it.

This is even more powerful if it is done with the people involved in making that enterprise come to life – staff, investors, partners – then they get a shared experience of that imagined journey.

Simple stories, super results

It still amazes me sometimes that simple stories can act as the foundation for a brilliant enterprise built on values, on a confident history where we can see the challenges and opportunities ahead.

They can influence our staff, our customers, our partners and even ourselves – helping us to achieve our goals, and our businesses to prosper.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Jean Gamester. Jean is founder and director of consulting business, Semaphora, where she delivers change programmes and helps organisations to make change happen. She is also a volunteer leader with Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.

Jean is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and her other articles include;

More on starting and leading your own business

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