Too often I run into business owners that think they sell a product or service. “I clean carpets”, “I sell insurance”, “I provide apartments”, “I sell cookies”. This is no longer enough. There are hundreds of people that do what you do. Sometimes thousands. You no longer can just “sell books”, “take photos”, or “sell hamburgers”. You must have a story and be willing to tell everyone what that story is.
When I sit down at a restaurant, not some fast food joint or fancy steak house, but a regular mom and pop diner type restaurant, the first page I flip to in the menu is the story. I want to know who the owners are, when they started the restaurant, and what making food means to them. This, to me, is the most important page. If a restaurant doesn’t have a story, I am often anticipating a mediocre meal with mediocre service. And I’m usually right.
What is even more a tell of an involved owner, is when the waiters and waitresses know the story as well and they breath it. I’ll often ask them, how long has the restaurant been there? How long have you worked here? I learn so much more about the organization before I ever put in my order.
I am always making sure that the people I work with know our story. I had the opportunity to sit with a prospective collaborator awhile back. Our team had already started the meeting, I entered the room a tad late and sat down. He was giving his spiel about what he does and where he came from. His basic resume and name dropping that comes with a meet and greet. When he was done he turns to me and asks, “so who are you?”
I just smiled and said, “Why don’t you ask them.”
It was such a joy to hear our team telling our mission, our goals, and the vision we have for the future. My team is who I am on any given day. If I have not given them the story to live out in their own way, then there would be no story. We would just be a bunch of hacks, sitting at computers, puttering away at some menial task.
If you are a baker, then you are more than a person that sells baked goods. You are a person that brings warmth and joy to people through food. If you are a painter, you are someone that fills people’s lives with color. This is the story you must reiterate to your team on a regular basis. It must constantly be reinforced by your actions and words.