Stories are not just stories; they’re experience repackaged. They can tell a lot more than just a story. If you own a business, or ever want to, you should be able to tell each of these stories well. If you can, you’ve already nailed the essence of long-term strategy. If you can’t, then here’s a good way to rethink your business.
You want to be able to tell these stories because they’ll help you understand, focus, and manage your business better.
1. The Story of The Buying Event
Tell the story of an imagined best-possible customer wanting or needing something, finding your business, and buying from you. Try to describe that person (or company) in detail. Be able to describe the process in glorious detail. What did she want? What did he need? What led her to your business? What was he looking for? What problem did she have? How did he find your business, and what made him decide to buy? What were the important decision factors?
2. The Story of Why We Exist
Be able to tell a simple story about how your business makes some people better off. Guy Kawasaki talks about making meaning, making the world better. And that’s not just the social enterprises or non-profits, that’s the shoe repair business on the corner, the marketing consultant, graphic artist, and the hot dog stand that appears before noon. Every successful business does something for somebody, or it doesn’t last. And that’s a story you should tell yourself. What difference does your business make to the world?
3. The Story of Our Future
We used to call this the vision statement in the old-fashioned formal business plan. I don’t care whether it’s part of a document or not, but it’s a good concept to keep. Imagine your business three to five years from now. What does it look like then? What is it doing differently, then, that it doesn’t do now? How has it changed? Is it in a different location? What new things is it selling, and to whom? How has its meaning changed?
If you can tell these three stories, you’ve got a business strategy.