We finally launch our business idea but then what happens? Often, the fairy-tale vision we set out to achieve has remained exactly that, a fairy-tale. We sit with our heads in our hands, demoralised and wonder what we could have or should have done differently. You may have a profitable enterprise, but it just isn’t the business you dreamed off. Instead, your dream remains a one-man-band operation. Perhaps you haven’t taken risks or invested in people. Maybe you were afraid others wouldn’t share your vision or maybe you struggled to delegate because, frankly, you believed others wouldn’t work as hard or as competently as you do. Sound familiar?
Never let a door close in your mind if there is no need to close it. Instead, open doors by inspiring others to get behind your vision with a great story. This is what maverick leaders do, and it is never too late to start developing yours. Storytelling is a passion close to my heart. I studied political theatre as an MA and during this time, I immersed myself for years in political stories of hardship, anguish, diversity, enlightenment, community and philosophy. The retelling of these stories through books, plays and performances has profoundly impacted those that have experienced them. However, stories should not be confined to books or the theatre. They can be a powerful tool for achieving business success too.
Are you unique? Yes. Does this mean others cannot share your vision or outperform your own standards? No. It is through community, collaboration and the evolution of diverse ideas, practices and processes that we can continually be surprised and inspired by others. However, to empower others to action, often you need a great story. For thousands of years, people have been inspired by fantastic tales of risk-taking, struggle, love and community, which is why entrepreneurs and maverick leaders know they need to utilise this powerful tool if they wish to achieve the fairy tale ending.
Historically, storytelling had the purpose of creating communities. The first examples date back to the Chauvet cave in France, where representations of storytelling date back over 36,000 years. For our ancestors, storytelling was a practice used to help create communities, share ideas and create unity. Stories also help provide a sense of culture, history, and identity.
Subsequently, the importance of storytelling in business should never be underestimated. When implemented effectively, stories can help transform your business identity, boost profits, inspire teams and help reach new customers.
Stories provide customers with context to understand why your business is worth investing in. Real-life stories help consumers to connect with you and your brand. If your story is relatable, then customers and employees may even see themselves as a character within it. Storytelling is an emotional pastime that can help you to significantly distinguish your business from your competitors. At the very least, your story should be an essential part of your internal and external marketing strategy, and it should relate to the values and behaviours that form your culture and vision.
The power of storytelling was highlighted by significantobjects.com, a literary and anthropological experiment devised by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, which auctioned off insignificant objects on eBay alongside heartfelt short stories. The objects, purchased for $1.25 each on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total. This shows how a smart storytelling approach can increase the perceived value of something and generate significant ROI.
Storytelling has also proven to increase employee engagement. We know that at the heart of all the best businesses are its employees, and therefore, a company only succeeds when its employees do. So why not start cultivating the right attitudes within your business with a compelling story?
When it comes to understanding your story, don’t just share a vision. Instead, share your struggles, values, motivations, aspirations and everything else that contributes to providing your employees and customers with a greater sense of purpose by being part of it. If you want to revolutionise the world, share the “what, how and why” of your story. It is already what the fastest growing businesses in the world are doing, and that is because people like to connect with stories and place themselves within them. People also want to remember stories and then share them, which drives action and results. Stories provide meaning, create context and they evoke a sense of purpose.
So, if you are a leader or business owner who is closing more doors than they are opening, I recommend you take some time to analyse what your story is. If you don’t, you may find your business dreams and aspirations remain a far-off fairy tale. However, if you adopt a storytelling mentality and take the time to understand and develop your own profound story, then you never know what your business might achieve.
As a risk-taking maverick entrepreneur, you can have your “happily ever after”, but first, sit down and answer this question: What is your story?
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