Great Story, Horrible Business
Companies are striving to develop and market their story as a way to connect with their customers and boost differentiation in the marketplace.
While that is a terrific strategy to grow, a word of caution should be in order – if your business is not-so-terrific, it may be wise to get your house in order first.
Over the years I’ve observed:
- Growing tech companies that crush it in sales yet cannot service customers once they’re onboarded like they used to
- Restaurant chains who strut their brand with a pomp that does not connect with their customers or their employees
- Healthcare organizations that talk of great patient care yet hide unethical business and regulatory practices
- Leaders that oversell their company to customers and shareholders and under deliver on making the internal workings of the organization efficient or lessening workplace stress
A few years ago I talked with the executive team of a respected and growing organization. They had a well established brand and were looking to get their story known throughout their markets.
As I talked with them, I discovered that they were too focused on building their story and neglected the core fundamentals of their operation, sound business practices, and poor leadership and team development. It seemed the more I implored them to see the trajectory, the more that they were clueless to where they were headed. Sure enough, 6 years later, their market share is declining. And what are they doing to combat their sales slide? They are doubling down on their tradition and their story even more.
Your story is like the exterior of our house – if the foundation is crumbling, then no amount of paint or external work can salvage it. Businesses are the same way – the external story accounts for nothing if the company cannot function efficiently, service its customers properly, or grow and develop people.
Your company’s story only matters if there is real evidence of it to everyone in public. Overstating your achievements, or just promoting what you can do when customers and staff members know otherwise leads to disengagement, declining sales, and loss of confidence in the marketplace.
You should only focus on your story when your structure is solid and all the mechanisms are in working order. Things don’t have to be perfect, but working well enough to have an honest assessment within and without the organization, in order that your story will augment and bring people – employees and customers alike – into your brand to improve and build it alongside you.
Start with the Why. Then perfect the How. When those are solid, then you can focus on the “About”.