In this series, I share with you some of the key learnings I have had from my first 6 months of launching my first startup (Shiageto Consulting) and how those lessons are applicable for the challenges my business is facing during this pandemic crisis (and any business at any time in fact)
The initial challenge
I love telling stories! I don't mean this as in 'I love making stuff up' (although I am a very creative person); I mean stories from my life where I'm sort of the hero and where I save the day (although it's more likely stories where I'm accident-prone and everything goes wrong); stories about some of the incredible things happening in the world right now; stories about the origins of something or even just stories about stories.
I think it may have been my days as a teacher but I soon came to realise that it wasn't just me who loved stories, everyone did! By using a story I could connect with my students more, make things more memorable, make them easier to understand and make them more likely for them to be able to tell others. Ever since then, I haven't stopped using stories as one of my key tools for business and for life.
I guess then, I shouldn't have been surprised when I discovered that telling stories would become an integral part of my startup journey (in many ways, it's integral to all our journeys). What do I mean by this?
Well, since the day I let people know that I was building a startup, I've been inundated by people who want to hear the story. They want to know all manner of things:
Why - Why am I doing it? Why now? Why on my own? Why would I leave a well paid job? Why do I think it would succeed? Why the name Shiageto?....
What - What exactly am I doing? What am I charging? What structure for the business have I put in place? What are the hours like? What's different about working on your own? What is a Shiageto?....
How - How is it going? How do I go about business development? How did I come up with my logo? How did I build my website? How do I handle tough times? How many Shiagetos do I have?...
Who - Who am I working with? Who am I targeting? Who works for me? Who do I interact with day-to-day? Who taught me how to use a Shiageto?...
Where - Where is my office? Where are my clients based? Where am I focusing my efforts? Where can they get a Shiageto?
When - When did I start it? When did I decide to start it? When will I make my first million? When will I sell it? When can they work for Shiageto?...
As you can see people are clearly interested in Shiagetos ;)
I find the easiest way to address these questions is through a story and not a day goes by when I'm not sharing some part of my story, be it: over coffee with an acquaintance, via email to new prospective clients, in pitch meetings, as part of facilitating a workshop, as a war story in a training session, the list goes on and on....
I find people are fascinated for a variety of reasons. Some care about my welfare, others care about my downfall, some are curious about the type of work that I do, some are curious because they are thinking of giving it a go, some are just hating their job and want inspiration, others just love a good story.
In fact, it doesn't matter why they are drawn to the story, all I know is that I have to tell it A LOT.
How has the pandemic amplified my challenge?
You might think that with all the worries of the ensuing pandemic, people might be less interested in your story but I haven't found that to be the case. The questions they ask have evolved (How is the business coping with the lockdown?) but now, more than ever, they are intrigued. I think some of this is because, if you're a good storyteller, people are looking for distractions and, because of the potential loss of their jobs, people want inspiration. Fortunately, on most days, I'm up to the challenge of providing both.
So, what are my takeaways from this learning?
The more I find myself telling my story, the more I've reflected on it and I believe there are three main things I adhere to:
Owning my story - quite simply, it is my startup story, no-one else's. No other person nor business will have walked the path I walked, been crafted by the experiences I've had, nor care as much about it so it is for me to share it and share it often. Many people may ask me to recount it but I shouldn't be afraid to also share it unprompted. On the flip side, I better get comfortable telling it because I'm going to be telling it many, many times.
Refining my story - no story is perfect straight out the box. I know from hard-fought experience that the more I practice my startup story the better it gets (this is always definitely the case everytime I practice big presentations rather than 'rely on getting it right on the day'). More than that, I know full well that different people prefer being told stories in different ways so I need to be able to tell mine in more than one way (maybe with a shorter version, or a more visual version, or a version stuffed full of analogies, or a version where the listener is the one to narrate it). Plus my story isn't done yet, more stuff is happening every day, as such, I never stop refining my story.
Being proud of my story - I wish my startup story was all 'sugar and spice and all things nice' but the reality is it also has some grizzly parts to it. Back in the day, I might have been tempted to airbrush these out but no, these are just as much a part of the story. Thus I've learnt to not be afraid to be honest, to take pride in all that I have experienced for (to paraphrase something I've said before) "There is no bad experience, just a better story".
And that is a short story about my startup story. If you've enjoyed it then check out the blogs, and vlogs that tell other parts of my story. You can also find out more on Linkedin or by visiting the Shiageto website :)
I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog, and got something useful from it. Join me next week, when I shall be wrapping up this enjoyable series with my final musings on what other aspects of life are like in a startup. Until then, please share any thoughts, comments or questions on this or any other topic. I'm pretty sure I have 1001 stories that might just be relevant.