How To Create Awesome Workplace Culture With Storytelling

Author

Brian Scudamore

October 7, 2016

Nearly 20 years ago, Paul Guy was chugging coffee and driving 12-hour days from Vancouver to Toronto. He was en route to open the first 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise.

Those were the early days, when only a handful of us saw 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s potential for growth. On his first day in Toronto, Paul made $576. Within two weeks, he was fully booked eight days out. That four-day road trip across Canada, in a junk truck that topped out at 60 miles an hour, was a risky move that changed our company’s trajectory.

He says, “The trip has gained mystique, but at the time there was no romance to it. I just needed a truck.”

Despite his low-key perspective, we look back on Paul’s road trip and see the impact that storytelling has had on our company. His journey became part of our corporate culture, symbolizing the power of conviction. Paul needed a truck in Toronto, so without thinking twice, he found one and drove it across the country. If he hadn’t taken this chance, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? would be just another junk removal service in Vancouver.

Brandthropologie founder Billee Howard says emotional engagement is key to stories that convey your company’s mission and speak to society’s values at large. Stories can be funny, compassionate, sympathetic or heroic — but companies with a compelling story will be more memorable than those without one.

This summer, we added a sequel to our story. We have four home-service brands under the O2E Brands banner, including Shack Shine, which launched last year. Coincidentally, our newest franchise partner, Myles Reville, needed a truck to launch his Toronto Shack Shine operation.

At our headquarters in Vancouver, we have a “Road Less Travelled” map of Canada on the wall that charts Paul’s journey. Myles was hugely inspired by the story and took his predecessor’s success as a sign of good fortune. He decided to follow in Paul’s tire tracks.

In 12-hour stints, Myles crossed Canada like Paul did 20 years before, taking photos and videos along the way. The 25-year-old, former ski bum even wrote a poem during his journey about cleaning windows. For Myles, the trip became more than just getting from point A to point B; it represented a new chapter in his life, just like it had for Paul.

To me, Myles’s road trip symbolizes the new generation of our company, who are inspired by the past and who are carrying our values forward.

Every business needs a great story to engage customers and employees alike. A story imbues a brand with corporate values, a sense of history, and consistency. Executive coach Harrison Monarth says stories carry more weight than data or numbers because they are a common language.

Entrepreneurs should look for their own stories, but make sure they’re worth telling. The story should represent the company’s core values and the brand message. Triumphant stories about the human experience are powerful tools that define your brand and set you apart. Stories bond your team, help define your corporate culture, and give clarity to the mission at hand.

Since Paul carried our banner across the country, his road trip story has been shared countless times during the office tours we offer each month. It’s been woven into our company’s narrative, popping up in stories time and again. It highlights the sense of adventure and determination embedded in the O2E Brands philosophy now.

When Myles arrived in Toronto, he gave Paul a call. They’d never spoken before, and Myles wanted him to know he launched his own business by paying homage to the legendary road trip. And just like Paul two decades before him, Myles arrived in Toronto with a job lined up and hit the ground running.

 

This article was written by Brian Scudamore from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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