This is Part II in a three-part series on entrepreneurial storytelling. Stay tuned for Part III in the months ahead.
“Write about it by day and dream about it by night.” – E. B. White
In the first post in this series, I encouraged you to pay close attention to the entrepreneurial stories all around you. What did you notice? How did they draw you in and convince you to stay for more? Did they prompt new behaviors or lines of thinking?
Entrepreneurial stories come in many different shapes and styles, but they are all built upon the same foundational blocks. Here are the building blocks of your story and some tips on how to piece them together.
The foundation of your entrepreneurial story
We’ll turn to the work of Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman to break it down into five elements of persuasion: Hero, Antagonist, Awareness, Transformation, and Passion. These are your fundamental building blocks — you don’t have a compelling story if you don’t have a firm grasp of these.
I mentioned TOMS, the now-famous shoe company, as a great example in our first post. TOMS is the keystone example of turning a spark into an entrepreneurial journey into a story that sold. Blake Mycoskie traveled the world, discovered the devastating reality of children in a small village, and had an idea to help. Once executed, his idea not only provided children around the world with much needed footwear, but rallied stakeholders around the cause, and made TOMS a household name.
Here are the building blocks that Blake pieced together to create his story.
The Hero is the agent of change. Depending on what you want your story to accomplish, that can be you, your product, or even your team. Founder Blake Mycoskie is the hero in his own entrepreneurial origin story, as he progresses the narrative and is the agent overcoming the antagonist to drive change.
The Antagonist is the force against which your story pushes. It clarifies your mission, creates opposition and gives you a measuring stick for progress. For Mycoskie, this was his realization that far too many children went without shoes in Argentina, and needlessly suffered from various health problems caused by going barefoot.
Awareness is the moment in which a solution is discovered or the narrative reaches a turning point. In the TOMS narrative, this is the moment in which Mycoskie realized he had a solution to solving the crisis in Argentina. It’s your ah-ha moment, and gives the audience the feeling of being privy to powerful information.
Transformation is the moment in which you realize the results of the hero’s efforts. Up until now, our hero has been in tension with the antagonist – the thorny problem she’s striving to solve. Preceded by awareness, or the recognition of a solution, transformation marks the successful resolution of this problem.
The driving force behind your entrepreneurial story is Passion. This is the culmination of your entrepreneurial interests and unique gifts, and the glue to powerfully delivering your entrepreneurial story. Without Mycoskie’s passion, TOMS would not have reached the notoriety it has today.
Piecing together your building blocks
Discovering and defining your foundational elements is the crucial first step to building your entrepreneurial story. However, the way in which you weave these pieces together, and deliver them to your audience, matters.
Your audience must be able to relate. Don’t make it complicated and lose them in the details. Refer to real events to illustrate your point — those real events make it memorable. Be humble, recognize the struggles and challenges, and know that the perseverance of your principles is far more important than portraying perfection.
With your building blocks, and these few tips to keep in mind, we’re ready to explore the archetypes of the entrepreneurial story, and the role it can play in building your business. In the meantime, take a look at your own narrative and identify the key building blocks along the way. Who is the hero? What drove them? And what did they achieve along the way?
Robin Bruce is CEO of the Acton School of Business, which prepares principled entrepreneurs to lead extraordinary lives as they pursue their calling. You should follow Acton on Twitter @GoActon.
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