I’d been vaguely aware that the ability to tell a good story was important to building your business. People like to be entertained. People can relate to stories.
What I didn’t understand was how to tell a good story. In the past, when I’ve tried to tell a story about my business, it fell flat. It was a meandering tale that I had a hard time condensing into a narrative that would capture someone’s attention. Basically, my stories lacked structure.
It turns out there is a formula that good books and movies use to tell a story. I had no clear concept of this formula until a close friend suggested I read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. In his book, Miller walks you through the formula that writers use to capture and keep their audience’s attention. As he does so, he shows you how you can apply it to create a strong brand message and grow your business.
So how do you tell a good story, why does the ability to tell a good story matter, and how does it help you grow your business?
Starting a company is hard. Having been there, and still going through the process, I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to do it. People will question your decisions and doubt you. Customers will reject your product and your ideas. There are long hours working day and night for little pay. Your life is turned into a roller coaster of ups and downs. It’s challenging, to say the least.
However, when things are clicking, there can be nothing like it. Building a product that solves a problem, satisfying customers’ needs, and creating value make it all worth while. These are the things that keep you coming back for more. They’re the goals every entrepreneur strives for. But achieving these goals is not easy, and sustaining them is a near impossible challenge.
So why on earth would anyone ever want to “do” a startup?
I set a goal five years ago to blog regularly about my day job running a software company. I setup the Startup Lessons category and managed a handful of posts that year before things stalled. Since then, most of my Startup Lessons have been about related books or riffs on interesting posts.
So after a lengthy hiatus, I’ve decided to reboot Startup Lessons. My (new) goal is to write at least one post a month sharing what I’ve learned running a business over the past 15 years.
I would consider myself a follower of Seth Godin. I discovered his blog over 10 years ago and have been a daily reader ever since.
Seth has also written a lot of books on marketing and business, but I hadn’t read any of them. I might be changing my tune after recently reading The Bootstrapper’s Bible.
No, this isn’t a book review about gambling. although it tends to be the way most companies price their product, especially when the product is software. Why is that?
Pricing a software product is a difficult, challenging task. The problem is that the cost of software doesn’t lie in making another copy. The marginal cost to make an additional unit is effectively zero. The internet has eliminated the cost of distributing it. So if production and distribution are free, what makes software so expensive?
It’s the cost of the people required to develop, market, and sell it. These elements add up quickly and can get very expensive.
In Don’t Just Roll the Dice, Neil Davidson addresses the difficulties pricing software. And as the subtitle states, it is a ‘usefully short guide to software pricing,’ with the operative words being short and software.
Most business books tend to be dry and boring. An author introduces a framework or set of concepts. These are explored in detail. Theoretical examples of how to apply them are given. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a business book in this format that is well written and reads easily. For the most part though, these books are a slog and take me a long time to read.
The business books I like are those that weave the framework or concepts into a story. They are easier to read and entertain at the same time. While I may not be able to apply or use the concepts presented, more often than not, I read through this style of business book faster. It feels a lot less like work and is way more enjoyable.
My latest business read, Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton, uses the story-telling style to introduce their Entrepreneurial Operating System framework, or EOS for short.
I’m continually on the lookout for ways to improve. I especially like reading books that provide tips and techniques on managing myself. With each book I read, there is often at least a couple of things, and sometimes more, that I learn about and can incorporate into my daily routine.
It’s one of main reasons that I became interested in The Miracle Morning, which is available in numerous versions. There is a generic title that is applicable to everyone and other versions tailored to specific occupations. For example, there is a version for real estate agents, one for salespeople, one for writers, and one for college students. Since I spend the majority of my days running my own business. I chose to read the version titled The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs by Hal Elrod and Cameron Herold.
Last month’s delay of the WeWork IPO and the subsequent turmoil around the company got me thinking about the startup scene again. There seems to be a never-ending supply of capital available to promising startups. We’re seeing public market exits for companies Uber, Lyft, Slack, Peloton, Pinterest, and Zoom in the billions of dollars. On the surface, it would appear that we are in a golden age for startups.
Are we really in a golden age for VC-funded startups? Or is it possible that we could be in the gilded age of VC funded startups?
My go-to resource for web analytics is Avinash Kaushik. Guru does not adequately describe his level of expertise on the topic. If you have any interest in analytics, his blog is a great resource that is chock full of information. The articles are deep dives into the concepts, techniques, and tools that allow you to get the most out of your online presence. For bite-sized pieces of insight, I’d recommend subscribing to his newsletter, which you can do from his website.
So what does Avinash Kaushik have to do with the book Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It? In June of last year, Avinash mentioned the book in one of his newsletters. I have such high regard for his opinions and insights, that I immediately added the book to the top of my reading list.
I wasn’t disappointed.
When it comes to work, there are a few principles that are important to me. One is to always be learning new things. A second, closely related principle, is to continuously improve. As part of living out these tenets, I like to read books that I can apply to my business. Because time is precious, I look to trusted sources and watch what other CEOs are reading and recommending to add to my reading list. I learned about the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland through Matt Blumberg’s Return Path blog. He had great things to say about the book. Since I run a software development business, it was a no-brainer to make sure I read the book during 2017.