How to use your start-up story to reenergise your established business

I often think that the most interesting story of a business is the one that tells the tale of why and how it got started in the first place.

I’ve read many business biographies and have always felt quite attached to the businesses I’ve learned about, even long after the book itself is a hazy memory.

I remember reading the Cadbury story years ago. It’s the tale of English Quakers searching to find an alternative to coffee and alcohol, stumbling across the cocoa bean, struggling to turn it into something tasty, initiating the concept of social welfare, making pots of money, being conflicted by wealth, giving wealth away and turning into a modern day business. Phew.

By the time I had finished reading I was not only devouring the chocolate but I was beating the drum for Cadbury.

We all love a story, but we rarely tell our own. And in that we are missing a trick.

Once your business gets to a decent size and employs people that don’t remember the start-up days, you have a team who don’t know your story.

They don’t know why you got started, what you believed in, and why you persisted in business when the outlook was dour. They don’t know how you felt and what you sacrificed. And they don’t know why your business is so damn important!

So they seem a little indifferent to the business; not as motivated or as excited as you would like. Certainly not as driven. Which can be very frustrating. You’ve built this business, you do good stuff, yet no one seems to care like you do.

You can fix it by telling you employees your story.

Using your own words and style of talking tell them:

  • Why you started in the business.
  • What motivated you.
  • What “wrong” you were trying to right.
  • What you believed in.
  • The struggle you had to make your first sale.
  • The near-death experience when you almost ran out of money.
  • The delight at taking on your first employees.

Hearing your story will be like watching a movie. Your employees will be absorbed in your tale of the underdog who makes good and they will be willing you to succeed.

And when your story finishes at now, the present day, your employees will be excited to pick up the baton and continue the race.

Try it!

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses: Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of How to Bake a Business and was previously a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has a degree in economics from The London School of Economics (London University).


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