3 Stories Every Business Professional Should Tell
By John Millen
Telling stories in business is a superpower because they're engaging, persuasive and memorable. But one of the most frequent questions I get from business professionals about storytelling is, what kind of stories should I tell?
While there are effective story types for business, here are the three stories I believe every business professional should have available to tell:
1. Your origin story
What was your journey to this place in your professional and personal life? Most of us have a more interesting story than we know.
There were obstacles you had to overcome and people who helped you find your way. Sharing your origin story humanizes you and deepens your relationships with people.
Sara Blakely, the founder and former CEO of Spanx is a great example of storytelling to grow a business. She shares the story of the founding of Spanx and built her personal brand into the company's narrative.
The origin story of Spanx is that Blakely was going to a party and didn’t want panty lines to show through her white pants, so she cut the feet off pantyhose and later patented the idea.
While she possessed little knowledge about fashion or retail, in 2000 Blakely, at age twenty-seven, began her shapewear and legging company, investing her life savings of $5,000.
With the growth of her company, she became the youngest self-made billionaire in 2014. You can read more about Blakely’s story in my article Spanx CEO Sara Blakely's Four Leadership Lessons.
2. Your purpose story
Closely tied to your origin story is your purpose story. This could be the purpose of your life, if you’ve found it, or simply the purpose or your work.
The most powerful purpose story stems from when work and your life passions are aligned.
Your work purpose story might be about filling a real need in the lives of your clients, serving a passionate cause or being with a great team.
Working with clients on their stories I’ve heard countless examples like this one:
A young man I’ll call Tyler said his father passed away suddenly when he was six years old. His mother, who was not working at the time, was left to raise four children by herself.
Tyler’s mother was devastated, losing her young husband and knowing he had no life insurance. She was sure she would lose their home and would have no resources to raise their children.
But a day later, her husband’s friend, an insurance agent, came with great news. He had convinced Tyler’s father to buy a policy which was bound the week before.
Tyler’s family kept their home and he and his siblings all attended college.
He teared up telling his story. Tyler said he became a life insurance agent to make sure no family faces the dual trauma of losing a parent and facing financial ruin.
Tyler said that when he shares his story with potential clients, most people buy life insurance, knowing Tyler’s heart-felt purpose is to help them.
3. Your vision of success
Whether you’re a CEO, team leader or professional you’ll need to influence people to achieve a goal. It doesn’t have to be a huge goal like my example below. Achievement of any size goal is more likely when you see and convey a clear picture of success.
For example, the reason we have a robust space program, including the GPS you use for directions and mapping your runs, dates back to President John Kennedy.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress in May 1961, Kennedy painted a clear picture of success in space:
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.
No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important to the long-range exploration of space….
Let me be clear that I’m asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry heavy costs…
If we are to go only halfway, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
Though he never witnessed it, his vision of landing a man on the moon was achieved in July 1969.
Teaching business professionals for the past 20 years, I know that sharing stories of your origin, your purpose and your vision has the potential to change your business and your life.
Give it a try and let me know what you find.