The journey of a thousand miles

Photo credit to Unsplash



Don’t you just love those moments when you learn a story about someone or something and it makes you see it in a whole new light and suddenly you attach such sentimental value to it? We have grown up listening to stories. It is ow our parents/ caregivers explained the world to our younger selves and for many of us we never quite forgot the lessons attached. Chances are for every hero or role model you have chosen, whether in your life or even in a movie or novel, you were drawn to by their story. Whether it is the humble prince who rescued a slave girl or the wise village elder who settled all vendettas with such poise and grace; whatever it is, there was a story attached.

Sadly, the art of storytelling has been left to the informal space. The corporate world has for a long time obsessed with facts, providing people with information without engaging or inspiring them. However, the business landscape and organizational structures are evolving; and fast. The demand for data and information is sky rocketing in today’s world and therefore effective communication is becoming an absolute necessity. Every sector is churning out information by the second. This has over time resulted in people struggling with information overload.

“Never has there been a time when business has been so hungry for storytelling than today,”
Alexander Mackenzie, Cranfield University storytelling expert.

Organizations need to package their information differently for sustained impact and deeper reach. Creating an authentic, trustworthy and compelling narrative is a breath of life to a business. It is a great tool for marketing and it can create huge value for the business/ organization at very low cost. It is effective in marketing because like all good marketing, it appeals to the emotive and not the logical side of a person.

Everybody loves stories

We can learn the importance of storytelling lessons from some of the world’s leading companies by understanding how they built their brand and communicated their vision to their customers. Do you remember the ‘Twaweza’ Safaricom advert produced in 2017 dubbed ‘when we come together great things happen’? It was about a teacher called Mrs.Mary who needed to raise money for a hospital bill and was not in a capacity to, then the daughter puts up a post on Facebook and is able to raise the money from the crowd in a day. Safaricom then asked Kenyans to share their ‘Twaweza story’; which is really a measure of impact.

They spoke to the heart of Kenyans. People could relate to the story. Somewhere within the advert, you fall in love with Safaricom; beyond the issue of communication and connectivity. Like any good business story, it was subtle and Safaricom is somewhat personified as a solution for the people. The result, everyone wants to be part of the kind of impact portrayed on the advert!

You see, storytelling brings dry facts and figures to life and humanizes an organization, giving it a unique personality. Clients are able to relate and connect to your business at a deeper level which ultimately breeds loyalty. It seizes to be just about your product or service and it becomes about the business for your client.

Everyone has a story

Storytelling is not the preserve of the big and mighty, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can as well enjoy its proceeds. After all, setting up and running any business is a really arduous journey; some might say it is a journey of a thousand miles. So you are not in the space to develop adverts and do grand TV Commercials? You still have a story you can tell. Many SMEs are characterized by hardships in setting up and taking off. The murky waters of starting and failing only to rise again are the hallmark of many SMEs. Admittedly, few are lucky to just start and thrive at the first go.

Many SMEs want to sweep these autumn moments under the carpet, waiting to publish their success stories. But isn’t it true that the best stories revolve around mistakes, failures and disasters? They are characterized by obstacles being overcome by the seemingly ‘frail’, for example lack of capital, poor customer service, irrelevant products, corrosive competition or just terrible marketing skills. These challenges are the pivot of your story; they introduce the tension, bring the picture of resilience and appeal to the emotions of the reader. Where Tom (bigger and stronger) introduces problems and Jerry (small and frail) struggles and overcomes them; these are the kind of stories we all love and remember. All we need to do is find meaning in all these moments and communicate them to the

Your story can speak about:

  1. How you got to where you are
  2. What has facilitated your success over time
  3. Where are you going as a business

You also need to remember that you cannot divorce yourself from your business. Your business is a reflection of what YOU choose and what YOU don’t choose, YOUR values and preferences and this ultimately means that your business is to a big extent an expression of who you are. Consider sharing your journey in business establishments from an individual stand point, let people see your vulnerable side, the emotions at decision making moments and let them also see times when you were at your best. The authentic you (the good and the ugly) is inspiring! In this way, those that hear your story, whether clients or fellow entrepreneurs, will be stirred up to pursue their own journeys authentically.