Whether you are a founder, president, owner, CEO – your story influences certain facets of the company’s story. It can be a good thing; but sometimes, you’re holding the company’s story back, including its business conduct and results.
The story connection
I’ve written about my stories of failure and how they turned into a business plan. Some of those failures were connected to my story, to who I am as a person. They influenced both failure and eventually success. I had to recognize my story’s influence on the company’s story and learn how to separate its story from mine – so we can both have a better life.
I’ll give you some examples
The fact I’m multi-multi-disciplinary confuses a lot of things – people for instance. My closest say that if someone asks them “what does Limor do?” they never know what to answer that will be easy to say, comprehensible even to themselves. People often ask “what is The Story Telling Company about?” the real deep answer is difficult to grab. Today it’s easier, but that took some separation steps, because a company can’t behave like me or be who I am, it’s just too darn complicated; you can’t conduct predictable business that way. With separation came a change in people’s attitude towards the company, the story became clearer to them – they know what to ask for and they get a simple answer. Good for business.
Strong values and very high business and professional integrity (again my story here) can bring both isolation and trust. Isolation will hide your company, other professionals won’t want to recommend it and what it does; it narrows down their networking and business opportunities which sometimes lean on the known saying “if you don’t like my values, I have others”. I can say there are clients that don’t like those qualities either. As a person, I don’t mind being not very popular. At the same time, the company couldn’t grow in isolation. Separating our stories allowed keeping high integrity and connecting the company to others so it can proceed better.
Story connection works the other way round too
Take for instance, Mr. Zuckerberg or Mr. Jobs ‘the legendary’. Their stories, which are not necessarily really known to us, have most probably painted their companies and those companies’ business conduct. At the same time, their companies’ stories are painting their personal stories back – and not all of those stories are that great when you attach them to a person. Honestly, and you don’t have to answer anyone but yourself, what do you think about a person who’s company is based on eliciting and enhancing addictions? that changes the product constantly without giving adequate explanations to clients who invest their precious resources? who forces you to pay to be heard with people who wanted to listen in the first place? is that a good story for a person? I wouldn’t like such a story to be told about me.
Some would say, “but look at the financial success!”. Honestly, I don’t see the connection between my question and that answer, but even if there is a connection, it’s very problematic. Mr. Jobs’ story, not separated from Apple’s story on time, has left heavy business shadows. Mr. Zuckerberg’s story, not separated from Facebook’s story yet, is causing instability in the eyes of investors and growing lack of satisfaction with advertizing customers – not to mention the product – us – many of who really don’t like being his product anymore.
So, what do you want to do?
You have a choice – to keep your story and the company’s story as one, whatever will be will be. Or, you can do something about those stories and learn where and how to separate them. If you want to do something…
- First listen to what people say about the company you own/manage. The same is true if you are managing a business/professional unit within a larger company. What’s the street talk, the word of mouth? listen close to whatever is said.
- Then find out repetitions – what are people saying again and again? those are the first stories you want to look at. For better and worse – are those stories too familiar to you? could they be told about you?
- If the answer is yes, you’ll have to think about what is good and bad for the company in those stories and find a separation that can work for you both.
People say I’m not flexible enough with storytelling definitions, that I could ‘give in’ on them a little or less than a little, so it would make others feel good about themselves and we could have more friends and business. Yet I know that those precise definitions others don’t like, are core, the unique engine that sets everything we do in motion – the way we do it, the way our clients want and need it.
On the art end of things, I’ve decided for no compromise. In the “everybody is a storyteller” environment we’ve been witnessing for the past two years, both myself and the art can not prevail. That sentence is a false argument and causes much damage. I wasn’t willing to be part of it or place my company in that position. My story and the company’s story are unified on this end. The business result was “absence of service” for a year – no storytelling courses from The Story Telling Company. From what’s going on in the market, I already know that was a good decision.
On the business end of things, I’ve decided the company would co-op with others around ‘story’, not ‘storytelling’. That opened up many new possibilities for others to feel good and separated my story from the company’s story. The company can do more with others and I can stay the busy-with-storytelling-precision-doorwoman, and we both live happily ever after.
Leaving you with Madelyn Blair’s post Mindsets for the Future: Storyevolution for Your Business Leadership. Same story, she tells it very well. Hope to see you there.