What's Your Company Story?

posted 18 Feb 2013, 13:31 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Feb 2013, 13:32 ]

Dave Hosokawa, former chief executive of the parent company
of, advises: If your customers and employees
really understand what you are all about, you will succeed.
You help your customers and employees do that by crafting
and repeatedly telling
your company story.

Your company story tells about your company, what you do

for whom and why, with something about your people thrown
in. It's more than just your vision and
mission. It conveys your essence for being. It connects
with people on an emotional level.

Why Do You Need a Story?

CEOs and company leaders often assume employees know the
company story. They don't, necessarily. Neither do the
customers. Sometimes the management team doesn't even
really know the story.

Though they're handy, laminated vision and mission cards
are often meaningless to employees and customers. They just
contain words, often too many and too obtuse, without a
context. They don't explain what the company is really all
about, why someone would want to work there or why someone
would want to be a customer.

People like to tell stories. They like to listen to them
and repeat the good ones. What your company is all about
needs to be a story every employee and customer can tell
enthusiastically and without fail.

If you doubt that capacity, think about the company
grapevine -- the quickest way stories circulate throughout
your organization. The stories may not be accurate, but
they get retold. Repeatedly.

By crafting and telling your company story, you can help
employees know:
--Where the company is going
--What role they play in helping the company get there
--Who the customers are
--What their needs are

You can help customers understand how much you value them
and are committed to them.

How to Create Your Story

The Company Story needs to cover three areas: company,
customers and employees.

1. The Company

--Why does your company exist?

Start with your vision or mission statement, then take it a
step further. Get away from the burdensome, tired language
of many mission and vision statements. Say what's in your
heart, not your brain, then take those values you espouse
and create your story from there.

--Where is the company going?

Convey a sense of future accomplishments. Your story needs
to define your strategies for getting to that future.
Employees often complain that they don't know where their
company is headed; they don't know what the CEO's
strategies are. If an employee doesn't know that at a gut
level, how can they help the company succeed and move

2. The Customers

--Who are your customers?

This goes beyond the "small to medium-sized businesses
producing customized widgets for the esoteric environment."
Think about who your customers really are. How would they
want to be known? Are they small to medium-sized businesses
committed to helping companies develop safer aircraft? Or
to make flying safer?

--Why do your customers buy from you and not your

Do you know what your customers really think? Have you
asked them? Do families flock to Disneyworld because they
like Mickey Mouse or because they know they will enjoy
top-notch family-based entertainment in a safe and clean
environment? Obviously, the answer is the latter -- and
they're willing to pay top dollar for that experience.

3. The Employees

--Who are your employees?

Tell something about your employees. Why do they work at
your company? What makes them come to work each day?
Hopefully, the answer has to do with the quality of work
experience, as opposed to "I need the money."

--How do your employees contribute to the company's
customers and success?

One of your primary audiences for this story is your
employees. Executives often assume Joe in the mailroom
understands how he contributes to the company's success.
But Joe may just feel he's pushing paper and routing
packages. You need to help him understand how his timely
and accurate handling of information ensures the company
responds to customer requests and other needs on a timely
basis. If Joe doesn't do his job well, vital information
may get lost.

What about your receptionist? Sue may not realize she is
your company's ambassador, the first person to interact
with customers and potential customers. What value does Sue
bring to the company?

As you create your story and work through these questions,
you do not need to address each individual employee's
contribution. Instead, create a message that will touch
each person or group of people so they understand the value
they bring to the company.

Key Ingredients for a Good Story

Stories work; they always have. Jesus used parables to
teach key points. The ancients told epics to convey history
and the battles between good and evil.
Today, movies and other art forms tell our stories.

In his book "Managing by Storying Around," David Armstrong
promotes storytelling as an effective way to make you a
better manager. According to Armstrong, storytelling is:
--An excellent way to pass along corporate traditions
--A great form of recognition
--Useful for recruiting and hiring
--Great for making sales

If you stick to those guidelines, you will succeed.

Other tips for creating a great story:
--Use metaphors. People relate to metaphors. A metaphor can
convey a complicated message in a simple way. For example,
a company's complex production process could be compared to
making a soufflé: each step must be exact and on time
or the soufflé will fall.
--Focus on people. Your audience for this story includes
your customers and your employees. People want to hear
about people.
--Personify your company. Create a character that
represents what your company stands for and does. For
example, a traditional law office might be presented as The
Judge, an upright individual who honors the law. From
there, you can create The Judge's character.
--Keep the language simple. Use plain English and active
verbs. Don't rely on the dry, multisyllable words you use
at the office. Check the readability level of your story by
running it through the grammar check on your
word-processing software. You want your story to have a
readability level of at least 65 on the Flesch Reading Ease
scale or to be at the 8th grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid
Grade Level scale.
--Appeal to the senses. Research into neurolinguistic
programming, how we think and communicate, has found that
people react unconsciously to messages that touch on how we
see, hear, or feel things. Ensure your story includes words
that address each of those senses.
--Build in enthusiasm and energy. Too many workplaces today
lack those qualities.
--Keep it fairly short. Even a good story can lose
listeners if it goes on too long. Edit your story to make
it tight, concise and effective

How to Communicate Your Story

The CEO is the primary storyteller. In their book "Funky
Business," Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell Nordström
write that the true leaders are CSOs -- Chief Storytelling
Officers. CSOs should tell the story everywhere and all the
time, at every company event, at every customer event, at
any event anywhere.

Employees who can tell the story can serve as ambassadors
for the company, as well as salespeople. The same goes for
customers. As Hosokawa said, if your customers and
employees really understand what you are all about, you
will succeed.

About the Author:

Pam Scott is CEO of Armstrong Scott Inc., the expert in
communication and leadership for the engineering world. Her
passion lies in helping individuals with interpersonal
communications and helping companies with strategic
communications. Go to to get the
FREE report "How to Master the Art of Managing People."

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