Martin Campbell is MD of fintech firm Ormsby Street. In this article he explains why becoming a good storyteller is one of the smartest moves an entrepreneur can make.
Of all the many hats that entrepreneurs have to wear at any particular time of the day, and one of the most under-rated, is the ability to be a good storyteller. I would argue that this is the most important attribute a business leader can have. It allows them to position their business as they want to, whether that’s in a major interview with the press, pitching to an investor or negotiating a deal with a prospective new partner or customer.
Telling a story – and I should be clear, this has nothing to do with spin but everything to do with communicating clearly and with clarity about your business, what it does and where it is going – is also invaluable when engaging with staff and potential employees. The development of a strong employer brand can be huge asset when it comes to attracting and retaining talent in a business which will, in turn, reinforce that story.
When a business first starts, it is the leader who must be the storyteller. It is their vision and they must communicate clearly to their team the narrative of what they’re trying to achieve, where they’ve come from and where the business is ultimately headed. This empowers others in the business to tell that story too, and means that organically, the story will develop and change, just as the company grows.
When a business is recruiting, by far and away the best way to go about it, is by making sure the existing workforce is properly engaged. The immediate network should always be the first place to look when hiring, and if staff can tell the company story clearly and confidently, then it makes for a much simpler conversation during the recruitment process and makes the company a far more attractive proposition.
The key to successful storytelling in business and developing that employer brand, is not only to demonstrate success but also to bring it to life. So when I talk about Ormsby Street, I do not just rattle off a list of our achievements and awards won, I talk about why we started the business, how we all work together and pick out individual stories of how customers have used out product to improve their own cash flow – and to get out of tricky situations with dodgy customers. It’s those real stories populated by real people that actually engage us emotionally and contribute so much to the employer brand.
In the course of our work with small businesses, I come into contact with different firms all the time, and while they all have a good story to tell, they aren’t always telling it in the right way. When people are telling their business story it needs to be bold, clear, authentic and visionary. They need to convince people that their business is on the right track and is one that others should be aware of and one that people want to work for.
Storytelling is a powerful skill to have for any entrepreneur, but it is particular useful when used to develop a strong employer brand, and attracting new staff. Such zeal might not come naturally to everyone but it is a skill that no leader can afford not to learn, even if it feels alien to begin with.