The power of storytelling shouldn’t be underestimated! I’ve heard it said that great entrepreneurs are also often great storytellers. Both Seth Godin and Brad Sugars told many great Entrepreneurial stories at their recent talks. A good story allows the teller to effectively capture the attention of an audience and leaves a memorable underlying message. Of course, storytelling is nothing new. That’s what probably makes it so powerful. But what makes a great entrepreneurial story?
- A Challenge – on a noble quest or hero’s journey. The story of David and Goliath for example. People like hero’s who have overcome the odds to succeed. Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson who took on the mighty British Airways. Only time will tell how our startup story turns out. The odds are stacked against us: software startups take more time and money to return on investment and VC funding is 40% down. Just as well we like a bootstrapping challenge 🙂
- The villain! This is closely linked to the challenge. Startups battle for survival in competitive markets. The entrepreneurial quest does not necessarily set out to fight mighty competitors but sometimes they have to. The villain (BA is Branson’s case) then comes to embody the heroic challenge.
- Delivery – Great storytelling is an art. Its not easy. Like jokes, good stories are often amusing and fun. The teller needs to deliver an outstanding pitch, tempo and tone. It requires talent, technique and practice. The story also must be authentic. In 2007 I heard Dick Costello of Feedburner (Now part of Google) talk about building and selling his startup to Google. Dick told a great story. He had crafted his storytelling working as a comedian for five years.
- A moral or meaning– This brings a personal and relevant meaning to the listener/reader. Something we can all relate to and learn from. The rights and wrongs of moral behavior are taught to us as children through nursery rhymes and stories. We continue as adults to look for the underlying meaning in situations.
- ‘..and they all lived happily ever after.’ – The emotion of hope and a belief that who dares eventually wins. Dick Costello had five failed startups before selling Feedburner to Google for $60m. A happy ending for Dick.
Seth Godin believes that a ‘Wow’ product and great story is vital for a business to succeed. However real stories can’t simply be made up, they have to be lived. Only then can the storyteller be passionate and real. To have an great story an entrepreneur most embark on a difficult and challenging business adventure.