There are seven great stories. Think of the people around you in the house, office, train carriage or wherever you may be. They will each have their own favourite books, films and plays. Each will have its own plot but it will likely be one of seven stories: Voyage and Return, Quest, Comedy, Rebirth, Tragedy, Overcoming the Monster, or Rags to Riches.
Your business will either involve doing something new, doing something in a new way or doing something for a new market. It will (hopefully) be unique but it will be part of a larger story and is likely to follow the conventions. This is a good thing! Commonality makes any problems or growing pains easier to overcome. Facing a common challenge does not mean you’re lacking originality or innovation.
Star Wars was an innovation. No one had seen anything quite like it before. However, look at the story and you will see the conventions of a quest. Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and a lightsaber equal Merlin, Arthur and Excalibur. In fact Kenobi, Merlin, Gandalf, Morpheus, Dumbledore, Mr Miyagi and many other famous characters all perform the traditional story role of mentor to the hero.
Because conventions are shared across stories, looking at your progress in your own story can help to arrange your priorities. So what is the StartUp Story?
An owner-manager starts by working hard to live a dream. They work hard, control everything, and try to have some fun. For some, this is as far as the story goes. A lifestyle business that allows them to do what they love is both the beginning and the desired end result. There’s nothing wrong with that: waiting for Godot has been hugely successful and – spoiler alert – not much changes in that story.
Some want to move their story on from lifestyle business to value business. Successful owner-managers will gradually assemble tools and methodologies to make them more efficient and effective. Each story is different, the tools and systems will vary. However, this transitional process is common to all who try and make the move towards value creation (and some others who just want to improve their lifestyle business).
Eventually, successful owner-managers will be driven by results which show that value is being created. The less reliance on the owner, the more value the company has and so this stage of the story involves the hero increasingly stepping back from roles and responsibilities. The story’s not done, in fact it’s likely the story is about to become more important than the hero.
Do you recognise where you are on in the story? Once you do, and you realise that everyone’s story shares common elements you can use this to your advantage. At your networking events, who is facing the same trials you are? Who has passed through this phase and might be willing to offer some advice? Perhaps your story is a quest story and you need to look for someone to fill the mentor role..?
Stories have their ups and downs. Good stories need an element of peril too. Don’t go seeking trouble but don’t be surprised when trouble occurs. You may have to slay a monster or two or escape to live to fight another day. Remember that whilst your trials may be unique, they fall within a recognised story and so there are people to speak to and there are always ways to overcome.